By Ian Neubauer
NSW publicans being forced to implement a new post-midnight, hourly, ten-minute freeze on bar service believe it will encourage binge drinking, place a strain on amenities, cause staff lay-offs and cost them thousands in lost revenue.
The ten-minute time-out rule was introduced today (December 1) among other tough new restrictions as part of a NSW Government crackdown on alcohol-related crime at 48 ‘problem’ venues across the state.
Most publicans affected by the crackdown have expressed support for the new restrictions and are willing to give them a go. But they have drawn a line over the time-out rule, with dozens seeking stays or exemptions through the courts.
Steyne Hotel licensee, Nathan McMillan, said the authority’s failure to inform the public of the time-out rule will cause confusion and disdain.
“It is going to be difficult because people are not going to understand why we have to do this. There has been no signage,” he said. “I think it is going to create more problems. People are going to rush to the bar before and after the time out.”
Keystone Hospitality group director, Fraser Short, whose Sydney CBD venue, Cargo Bar, has also been subjected to the new rule, said it would promote a ‘stadium effect’.
“The stadium effect is where customers are using certain facilities all at the same time and excessive queuing occurs at toilets and bars,” he said.
“The building code has not allowed for patron movement of this type. If it did, it would have to increase by at least 50 per cent the amount of toilets at every venue affected by these new restrictions.
“And one can only assume that customers will soon forgo their favourite bar if it has to shut every ten minutes and head to a new venue that does not have such oppressive restrictions in place.”
Roi Bar operations manager, Robert Malone, voiced similar sentiments.
“If it does not turn them away and force the problem onto another venue, it will simply cause more intoxication,” he said. “People will be stockpiling drinks and people waiting at the bar will be getting very angry.”
“The reason you go to a bar is to drink alcohol in a safe environment. I actually support all the other new restrictions and had already put them into place — apart from this one,” he said.
Malone said he was flabbergasted at the way his Albury venue was lumped together with the large Sydney venues on which the new restrictions were also imposed, adding that he recently received a commendation from Albury Police for reducing alcohol-related assaults and anti-social behaviour in and around the premises.
“Two hundred years of social problems with alcohol cannot be fixed with one rule,” he said. “We were going in the right direction, but this one rule will either send us broke or increase the chances of intoxication or assault taking place.”
Exchange Hotel licensee, Darren Hickey, said the time-out rule would likely lead to staff redundancies.
“We will still have to pay bar staff whether they’re serving or not,” he said. “Does that mean we get rid of all the glassies because some of the bartenders can go and collect glasses during the time out?
“We believe it will cause binge drinking and that it is a political stunt. Obviously we have to obey the law and will do what the law states, but we are opposing it in court.”
The NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing was asked to comment on publicans’ concerns over the time-out rule but did not reply before this story went online.
However, a spokesperson from the Premier’s office said all measures were ‘fluid’ and could be changed in light of new circumstances or evidence.
“If one part of what we’re doing doesn’t seen to be working, then it will be changes,” the spokesperson said.
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