By Andrew Starke
The Australian Hoteliers Association (AHA) CEO Sally Fielke and ClubsNSW CEO David Costello have welcomed the NSW Government’s decision to impose tough new liquor restrictions on violent pubs and clubs but both voiced concerns about their application.
Fielke welcomed today’s clarification from Government but warned that the devil would be in the detail.
“Finally there has been some movement and indication of a way forward,” she said. “Many venues on the previous list did not know why they were on there.”
Fielke said it was the Government’s responsibility to ensure the decisions it takes are based on ‘clean data’, citing the example of the Cargo Bar, which feels it is being held responsible for all violent behaviour in its area rather than just on its premises.
A spokesperson for ClubsNSW said the decision to provide clubs with a mechanism for being removed from the special conditions was a long overdue response, which balances some of the unfairness of the previous system introduced in December last year.
However, he added that the new restrictions would be a ‘step towards establishing a system based on the principle of fairness and common sense’.
Gaming Minister Kevin Greene said that wide spread consultation has occurred following the introduction of the Government’s initial measures to ensure the system was fair and transparent.
“Before any conditions are imposed, licensees will have the opportunity to provide their venue safety plan and show cause as to why they should not be added to the list of premises subject to special conditions,” Greene said. “The names of the venues subject to the new legal requirements will be published online to allow patrons to make informed choices when deciding where to go out.”
Greene said his NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing had carried out a review of 24-hour venues to ensure adequate liquor licence conditions were in place. The review found that only 14 licensed venues in NSW actually trade 24 hours and they are already subject to stringent conditions.
However, ClubsNSW accused the Government of adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach with the new restrictions not taking into account visitor volume, pointing out that a club with 1.5 million visitors and 12 reportable incidents in a year will be penalised in an identical manner to a nightclub or hotel with the same number of assaults but just a fraction of the volume of visitors.
“Clubs share the Government concern about the rising number of alcohol related incidents but it is important our politicians recognise that clubs have played no part in this surge in assaults and in fact have substantially improved their already proud safety records,” said ClubsNSW CEO David Costello.
According to figures that ClubsNSW sites from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), clubs account for just 17 per cent of all reportable incidents at licensed premises and less than one fifth of all assaults.
“The responsible performance of clubs has been proven year after year and again with the latest police records showing just 4 clubs among the top 60 venues ranked by reportable incidents,” Costello said. “It is unfortunate that clubs’ excellent safety record has been largely ignored by the Government in formulating the new special conditions.
He added that it was ‘staggering’ that Star City Casino is exempt from the special conditions and called on the Government to explain why the casino is treated so differently from all other licenced venues.