By Clyde Mooney
The first case challenging the New South Wales liquor regulator's 3-strikes Register has ruled in favour of the venue.
The St Kilda Hotel in Armidale, NSW – one of the first venues to be placed on the Register, in March – challenged the allegation of 'permit intoxication' in Armidale Local Court.
Magistrate Richardson found that, although the relevant patron was intoxicated, the licensee had taken all reasonable steps to prevent intoxication and was therefore not guilty of any offense.
Tony Hatzis, of liquor and gaming specialist lawyers Hatzis Cusack, told TheShout that the ruling has wide-reaching significance for venues, not the least of which is that the Register was challenged and the venue removed.
"The old view was that the licensee would automatically be guilty if a patron was found to be intoxicated at a hotel.
"Now it is recognised that, despite best efforts by licensees, one or two patrons might slip through the net.
"So long as the licensee has taken reasonable safeguards to prevent intoxication, the licensee will not be guilty."
The Australian Hotels Association welcome the decision, pointing out that this is a significant example of how the legislation has failed to do the job for which it was intended.
"Three Strikes is not working," AHA (NSW) CEO Paul Nicolaou told TheShout. "So called rogue operators targeted have escaped sanction, whilst country pubs, small clubs and restaurants have acquired strikes under a scheme best described as an administrative basket case.
"The intent of the legislation is well removed from the reality of its operation."
"The current legislation just means that every subjective allegation of intoxication lodged by police will be defended and most times successfully, clogging up an overstretched court system and costing licensees and Police legal fees.
"We were told the intent of the Three Strikes legislation was to capture the rogue operators but so far, this has not been the case at all and we've seen everyday operators being incurred with Strikes or legal fees defending allegations.”