By Annette Shailer

Industry concern over proposed changes to the Late Night Trading Development Control Plan (DCP) has continued to grow with Sydney hoteliers concerned the changes will create further uncertainty and financial instability.

The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday (Oct 17) that a representative from Justin Hemmes’ Merivale had met with Andrew Hawkins, 2Day FM radio host Kyle Sandilands' business manager, to discuss the problem.

Sandilands and Hawkins recently bought stakes in Kings Cross venues Piano Room and Trademark.

Australian Hotels Association (NSW) CEO, Sally Fielke, said that the City of Sydney Council has put forward a number of proposed changes to the Late Night Trading DCP.

The major changes are:

  • This DCP will apply if there is a change of use application that results in intensification (eg. if a venue has 24-hour trading and submits a DA to expand their balcony, the council may consider that an intensification and therefore decrease their trading hours or impose trial periods.)
  • Where a use is intensified, a DA rather than a s96 application is required (which would now permit a reviewable condition to be imposed – a reviewable condition provides even less certainty for operators as it means a condition can be reviewed at any time by Council.)
  • Council may now consider “relevant data and research relating to the impacts of late night trading premises” – this may include BOCSAR data or its own Late Night Trading Research.
  • There will no longer be a grace period once an application has been determined. This means, if you are unhappy with council’s decision and choose to challenge it through the court, you must trade at the new council hours until your matter has been finalised in court (as opposed to continuing to trade at your existing hours until a court either ratifies or overturns council’s decision).
  • Clarification that an applicant is always on a trial period for extended hours (the most they can obtain is a five-year trial period).
  • Clarification that five-year trial periods will only be considered when an applicant has completed no less than three trial periods.

The AHAs concerns are:

  • Absolutely no certainty for business operators. Who would invest in a venue with a 3am licence when tomorrow that may be reduced to midnight, through no fault of the venue operator? Why would you risk making improvements to your venue that require a DA, which the council will then use to control your trading hours?
  • Eg. Pub in Newtown is heritage listed and wants to restore the façade to its former glory. The venue currently has a midnight licence. Through submitting a DA to conduct the restoration works, council intend to bring the venue’s base hours back to 10pm and force the operator to apply for extended trading hours (on a trial period) if he wants to trade the additional two hours to midnight. The operator is now faced with the dilemma of either going ahead with the expensive renovations but potentially losing trading hours, or continuing to run his venue into the ground as it is, so that he can keep his trading hours.
  • The Liquor Act 2007 currently has all the necessary controls in it to deal with rogue operators. The Liquor Act is currently enforced by three separate bodies – OLGR Officers, police and a specialised police Alcohol Licensing Enforcement Command (ALEC) who regularly patrol licensed venues to ensure compliance. The checks and balances are already in place to ensure venues are operating to expected standards. Council do not need to give themselves further powers over and above police and the State Government.

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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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