By James Atkinson

Controversial liquor law reforms passed by New South Wales Parliament yesterday give the Government power to introduce lockouts and early closures to venues anywhere in the state, a legal expert has warned.

Hatzis Cusack Lawyers’ Tony Hatzis told TheShout the Liquor Amendment Bill 2014 unexpectedly empowers the NSW Government to extend 1.30am lockouts and 3am ‘last drinks’ by regulation to new precincts anywhere in the State.  

“Areas such as Byron Bay could be subjected to these measures, without further Parliamentary debate,” he said.

He said venues can seek exemptions from the 1.30am lockout and 3am cease service requirements, but he expects they will be difficult to secure in practice.

“Applicants will have to show that granting the exemption will cause minimal risk of alcohol-related violence,” he said.

Hatzis said the other surprise package was in the “risk-based” licence fee scheme introduced under the legislation.

“In determining the amount of the licence fee, OLGR may take into account the number of packaged liquor licences held by a single operator,” he said. 

“The intention appears to be to punish larger chain bottleshops.”  

Hatzis said the measures will have a harsh impact on late trading venues in the Sydney CBD, many of which have not been problematic and are safe, welcoming establishments.

“It is disappointing that these measures should be rammed through by the Government, when all of the broader statistical measures show lower rates of violence, lower rates of risk drinking, lower rates of overall alcohol consumption and lower levels of adverse health impacts from alcohol consumption,” he said.

“Instead of relying on objective health and crime data, the Government has caved in to the demands of those who have been driving the recent media campaign against the liquor industry.”

LSA NSW welcomes grace period

The Liquor Stores Association (NSW) welcomed the decision by the Government to delay the introduction of the laws, which were initially expected to come into effect today.

“Late yesterday evening the Government sensibly agreed with the need to properly communicate the compliance requirements in an orderly fashion over the next couple of weeks,” LSA NSW said in a note to members.

“The speed of this week's legislative changes have clearly caught OLGR unprepared, who have only just begun to prepare stakeholder communications and processes to manage the changes,” the association said.  

“LSA NSW held a series of discussions with OLGR yesterday, and they have subsequently committed to develop and outline a process for us and other sectors ASAP.”

The Shout Team

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

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