By Clyde Mooney – editor Australian Hotelier
Amid reports that the State regulator is distributing 'suggestions' on adopting strict liquor accord standards, the industry has reacted with a resounding 'slow down!'
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW has received reports over recent weeks that Office of Liquor & Gaming (OLGR) officials and NSW Police licensing officers have been distributing documents based on their ‘suggestions for compliance’ to liquor accords.
Reportedly some accords are being told they must accept these measures or ones similar to them, or face the prospect of conditions similar to those imposed on Newcastle or Kings Cross.
The AHA NSW has contacted senior OLGR staff, in response to numerous queries from both metropolitan and regional members relating to the distribution of the documents and the manner in which the information is delivered.
The OLGR representatives informed the Association that the intent of the program is: ‘to ensure all areas have considered the terms of their accords’; that the documents are ‘a guide only’ to stimulate discussion, based on existing measures from around NSW; and ‘not by any means a list of recommended strategies that accords must adopt’.
AHA NSW has always supported member involvement in the establishment and participation in local liquor accords, but warns members to think carefully before they proceed.
“Liquor Accords are about developing local solutions to their issues,” said AHA NSW CEO Paul Nicolaou.
“On that basis, members are strongly advised to consider carefully the issues that are affecting [their] local area, and to make informed and voluntary decisions in relation to any strategies that are adopted.”
Liquor licensing specialist law firm Sylvester & Browne bode the wisdom of proceeding cautiously, having seen first hard the results of operators railroaded into stringent voluntary conditions.
"Some of our clients have certainly been pressured into agreeing with the inclusion of certain conditions on a supposedly 'voluntary' basis,” David Sylvester, Principal Lawyer at Sylvester & Browne told TheShout.
“Others have been on the receiving end of Police using unrelated and biased intelligence in order to impose more stringent conditions. Many licensees adopt these terms and conditions through a fear of upsetting the Police or receiving increased attention from regulators.
“Unfortunately, and in line with the comments of the AHA, once formal conditions are imposed on a licensed venue, it is very difficult to have them removed. In our view, the large majority of venues are exceeding their responsibilities in so far as managing and reducing alcohol related violence is concerned.”
The AHA suggests that any operators who feel they are being intimidated or coerced into agreeing to terms for their accords, should not sign up to the terms in question.