By Clyde Mooney – editor Australian Hotelier
The OLGR has announced further punitive measures for Kings Cross bars and pubs in its attempt to appease the media spotlight on licensed venues and hospitality.
Justified as “the next phase of the NSW Government’s crackdown on alcohol-fuelled violence”, Minister for Hospitality George Souris announced this week that some Kings Cross venues will be forced to introduce identification scanners and train staff and managers in “privacy training”.
“Licensees will be required to prepare and implement an approved privacy management plan and policy,” says Souris, who flags “high-risk” venues as needing the ID systems at most times, and continuously from 7pm Thursday to 7pm Monday.
The industry has immediately criticised the move, citing BOSCAR data that suggests such a system is only required at the incident peak times of 9pm to 6am Friday and Saturday nights.
The new measures, which will bring considerable costs and cause trading and logistics issues for venues during the day, will undoubtedly inconvenience locals and tourists and not those causing the problems.
“There are a lot more things we could be doing to improve safety in the Cross than scanning the ID of a local couple who wants to grab a burger on the way home from work on a Monday night,” said AHA NSW CEO Paul Nicolaou.
“We need to be looking at targeted measures on a Friday and Saturday night when the problems occur – not cosmetic measures that do nothing but cost money and inconvenience the public.”
The OLGR claims “a 33 per cent reduction in violent incidents in licensed premises” since its introduction of special conditions last December – a figure the industry says it has yet to see supported with any evidence.
BOCSAR figures show violence levels in the area dropped 37 per cent in the past five years, and evidence emerged recently that the death of teenager Thomas Kelly last August – which triggered the focus on Sydney’s entertainment precincts – was unrelated to licensed venues.
“Individuals who think they can go out, get blind drunk and wreak havoc in the Kings Cross need to know it won’t be tolerated – and under this tough new plan, they can be banned from the precinct,” proclaimed Souris.
The OLGR plan, which will force 35 venues to install systems, will not prevent evicted trouble-makers from simply entering a different venue, and is far from the ‘precinct-wide’ ban endorsed by the Kings Cross Liquor Accord and its members.
The licensees maintain that the problems lie in insufficient police numbers and transport from the area, which attracts thousands of revellers on the weekends.
Operators also suggest more CCTV cameras need to be installed on the streets, where the problems occur, with the current count of nine cameras incapable of capturing all angles. Cameras in venues in the area total more than 2000.
TheShout asked the OLGR and Minister Souris to explain the continued focus on Kings Cross, in light of the court evidence that emerged about the fateful blow by the pre-loaded Keiran Loveridge.
The Minister’s office chose to not respond.