By Ian Neubauer

A spike in alcohol-related violence in the late-night precinct of Melbourne’s CBD has put liquor licensing under the spotlight in Victoria.

Victoria Police have reported a 17.5 per cent surge in alcohol-related assaults in the CBD over the past 12 months — a fact that is earning the precinct a reputation as a dangerous and unbecoming area after dark.

“There is an area between Queen Street and King Street that has quite a few large venues that are very much for the heavy drinking crowds and there are aspects of violence there,” said Melbourne club-goer, Theo Robinson. “I think the reports are exaggerated but that does not mean there is an underlying problem.”

“There have always been drunks, but what you are getting now is people using a alcohol and a mixture of different kinds of drugs,” said Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar venue manager, Simon Watson. “Things are spiralling out of control.”

Increasing assault rates in the area have not escaped the attention of authorities. Voices demanding change include Police Association assistant secretary, Bruce McKenzie, who wants a freeze on the development of new late-night premises in the city; Liquor Licensing director, Sue Maclellan, who is calling for additional responsibilities put onto licensees; and Victorian Premier John Brumby, who has described alcohol as “the biggest social issue” facing the state and is contemplating a range of new policies to affect change.

“Alcohol is more freely available and I think… we’ve got to learn to better manage alcohol than we have in the past. But it is a big issue, and we do intend to tackle it,” the Premier said.

Once dormant after dark, Melbourne’s CBD was transformed into late-night entertainment precinct following the deregulation of Victorian liquor laws in 1998. More than 1600 hotels, nightclubs and wine bars now operate in the area.

The Shout Team

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