By Andrew Starke

Large, late-trading nightclubs that pose the greatest risk to public safety will face significant fee increases under the Victorian Government’s proposed new liquor licensing system.

Consumer Affairs Minister Tony Robinson said the Brumby Labor Government was introducing a risk-based fee structure that would see licensed venues presenting more risk of harm to the community pay higher liquor licence fees.

“Licensees, particularly those associated with late night, high capacity venues, have a responsibility to play their part in making our community safer,” he said.

Robinson said extensive research demonstrated the one stand-out factor for predicting trouble in licensed venues was late trading – and the risk was compounded as patron capacity increases.

Under the proposed fee structure, large and late-trading nightclubs will face an $18,901 increase in liquor licence fees – from a maximum $6,659 to $25,560, despite opposition from liquor industry interest groups.

Packaged liquor licensees will be charged a higher base fee of $1,420 to reflect the increased risk of alcohol-related harm from pre-loading, unsupervised and underage consumption.

Bottleshops and supermarkets account for about 76 per cent of alcohol sales and advice from Victoria Police, the Director of Liquor Licensing and industry suggests sales from these venues contribute to problem drinking in the community.

However, restaurants, small laneway bars, early closing country pubs and wineries that are deemed to pose less risk to the community and cost less to regulate will pay less or face a moderate fee increase.

“More than 20 per cent of licensed venues in Victoria are restaurants and cafes,” Robinson said. “As a group, they are not associated with alcohol-related crime and violence and this is reflected in the new fee structure.”

Compliance history risk fees – relating to the number of infringements or prosecutions received for serving alcohol to intoxicated people or minors – will apply from 2011.

Licensees will face hefty fee increases if they fail to comply with responsible service of alcohol laws, paying up to $48,280 if they repeatedly receive infringements or are prosecuted.

Robinson said the new liquor licensing fee system would act as an incentive to licensees to comply with the law and serve alcohol responsibly. 

“This risk-based system will deter licensees from irresponsible business practices that contribute to alcohol-fuelled violence,” he said.

However the Nightclub Owners Association told the Herald Sun that tripling the liquor licence fee for a large club to more than $20,000 a year would force drink prices up, which would cause patrons to buy their own from stores, hold unruly gatherings and arrive at clubs already ‘tanked up’.

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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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