By Andrew Starke

Licensing restrictions such as earlier closing times, bans on selling shots and lockouts could be rolled out across NSW after a study showed the successful application of these measures in Newcastle.

NSW Police will consider applying for licensing restrictions to be introduced throughout the state after restrictions applied to 14 Newcastle pubs and hotels in March last year led to a 29 percent drop in assaults after dark.

The first study into the effects of the restrictions found at least 133 fewer assaults in an area that had the highest rates of assault in the state.

The restrictions imposed on the 14 licensed premises by New South Wales Liquor Administration Board (LAB) in March 2008 included: a 1am lockout; a prohibition on the sale of shots, mixed drinks with more than 30mls of alcohol, ready mixed drinks stronger than five per cent alcohol by volume after 10pm; a ban on the sale of more than four drinks to any patron at one time and a requirement to provide free water stations on every bar; and a requirement that the sale of alcohol cease 30 minutes prior to closing time.

To evaluate the effect of the measures, the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR) examined changes in the number of recorded assaults, the number of assaults linked to alcohol and the number of police call outs to licensed premises before and after imposition of the restrictions.

“All three data sources revealed a significant decrease in the proportion of assaults occurring after 3am in the intervention site but not in the comparison sites,” concluded BOSCAR. “Collectively, the data provide strong evidence that the restricted availability of alcohol reduced the incidence of assault in the Newcastle CBD.”

Newcastle police initially made an application to the Liquor Administration Board against the 14 local pubs which they believed were causing “undue disturbance of the quiet and good order of the neighbourhood” and six licensed premises in neighbouring Hamilton will from this week be forced to follow suit.

“Already we have the restrictions in Newcastle and now Hamilton. It’s something we are looking at applying for in other parts of NSW however I just want to stress that this is a lengthy and protracted process that it not taken lightly by police,” Superintendent Tony Cooke said.

“We only make the application for a section 79 ‘disturbance complaint’ when we have a lot of evidence that late night noise, anti-social behaviour and alcohol related crime is disturbing the residents of that neighbourhood,” he said.

“In the Newcastle example, the licensees contributed significantly to the reduction in assaults by complying with the restrictions.”

Copies of the BOSCAR report can be obtained by clicking here.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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