In this week’s instalment of citizen journalism, CEO of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW, Sally Fielke, argues that benchmarks will bring some clarity to ‘problem’ venues in NSW but are hopelessly weighted against large licensed venues.

"Since December 1 2008, 48 licensed venues in NSW have worn the tag of being “the most violent” in NSW. They have had conditions imposed including a 2am lockout, drinks out of plastic cups after midnight and a rather senseless 10 minute alcohol timeout each hour after midnight.

These premises didn’t know how long they would be on this list or how they could get off it. They felt ‘hung out to dry’ by Government. For many who had worked hard with local police, they had been given no clear indication as to why they were on it.

Finally, some seven months later those venues finally have some clarity. There is now a level of sensibility and promise about the process. Rather than a set number on the list, there is a benchmark. Premises with 19 or more verified, actual assaults will go onto the highest level for a minimum of six months based on 12 months of data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

12 assaults or above enters the premises into a secondary list, and eight and above to a lower level of risk. Premises will be able to challenge the stats, and provide evidence that their practices in no way contributed to incidents. That is a major breakthrough in the current process.

We have also seen a rationalisation of the strategies. The 10 minute timeout is all but dead. Of all the alcohol reduction strategies this was the most inane, with no evidence of any benefit, but significant threat of creating further confrontation every hour. 

Obviously the devil will be in the detail with this new announcement but the next challenge is to identify a model for addressing the fact that the more people in a venue, the more incidents that will be recorded, regardless of how well managed the larger venue may be. It is of no surprise that the largest venues, open longer hours will have more incidents, as some of those larger venues see over 500,000 patrons through per annum. 

It is a simple lesson in maths, that is why Sydney actually has more crime than Mudgee, and the Princes Highway has more accidents than Clovelly Road. In moving forward, the importance of accurate recording of any incidents of assault in or near venues is vitally important.

The positive side of this announcement is that the channels of communication with Government and industry are now open and AHA (NSW) will continue to work closely with Government to ensure the legislation surrounding these new laws are workable, rational and fair."

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The Shout Team

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

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