By Clyde Mooney – editor Australian Hotelier
The risk-based liquor licensing scheme announced by the New South Wales Government amounts to a “cash grab”, legal expert David Sylvester has told TheShout.
The OLGR on Friday outlined the first steps in a new liquor licensing regime that requires venues to pay annually to renew licences with “risk-based loadings” dependent on capacity and location if the venue has had licensing offences in the previous calendar year.
Adding to strong criticism of the scheme from packaged liquor retailers, Sylvester & Browne principal David Sylvester said it is outrageous that a single offence – which could be as minor as failing to record an incident in the incident book – would increase the annual fee for the average pub from $500 to $11,500.
“The mere fact that a venue is located within the Sydney CBD precinct should not in my view dictate that they should be treated in the same way that a violent venue or a venue with a poor compliance history is treated,” he said.
“Notwithstanding that the scheme dictates prescribed offences as those falling under s11 or 144B of the Act, it is arguable that some offences falling under or emanating from these sections are not serious offences at all.
“What’s going to happen is that all venues will take any penalty or breach notice to court to be independently adjudicated by a magistrate. While a typical ‘penalty or breach’ ticket is for $1100, it may cost from $5,000 to $10,000 to defend one of these matters in a court hearing, so the operators are hit in the pocket yet again.
“This is over and above the massive losses venues in the lock-out precinct are already suffering as people find alternatives for going out in those areas.”
AHA NSW director of policing John Green said the additional taxes must be used by the State Government to improve infrastructure for the late night economy including more transport, more policing and better lighting.
“AHA NSW believes that any business that benefits from late night trading should contribute to the cost of implementing measures that increase safety – including the many fast food outlets located near hotels and clubs,” he said.
“AHA NSW also notes that one of the triggers for the compliance loading is any breach of a liquor licence condition. Many of these conditions are old and badly worded and need to be reviewed to ensure they are relevant in 2014, otherwise some venues will be unfairly burdened with additional taxes.”
For more information on the new scheme, visit the OLGR website.