By Andrew Starke

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) in NSW has branded tough liquor licensing laws trialled in Newcastle as devastating for both the hotels involved and employment across the sector.

AHA NSW CEO, Sally Fielke told TheShout it was disappointing that police had heralded the Newcastle restrictions on 14 pubs as a success when many of the major issues had not been adequately addressed.

According to a report commissioned by the AHA to review the impact of the restrictions, imposed on the 14 licensed premises by New South Wales Liquor Administration Board (LAB) in March 2008, the premises involved have suffered a collective loss in value of $22.5 million due to 1am lockouts and restrictions on the number and type of drinks sold.

All 14 hotels operate or operated in the Newcastle entertainment precinct but only six are still under the original management.

Clarendon Hotel, Customs House, Fannies of Newcastle, Kings Street Hotel, Grand Hotel and The Dockyard have not changed hands.

The Cambridge Hotel has had two changes of ownership since 2008, while Crown & Anchor Hotel, Queens Wharf Brewery and Great Northern Hotel have all had a change of both owner and licensee.

The Civic Hotel was destroyed by a fire and not reopened, Lucky Country Hotel has ceased operating, MJ Finnegans is under administration and Ducks Nuts Hotel and Hotel CBD have both seen their operator declared bankrupt.

The report calculated that employee reductions as a result had led to a 21.7 percent decline in the hotels’ workforce.

“The figures show the effect of these restrictions in Newcastle have been devastating for the hotels and for employment across the sector,” said Fielke.

“We are an industry that employs over 55,000 people across New South Wales. To roll out the Newcastle restrictions across the State would put almost a quarter of these people on the street.”

Fielke said the Newcastle restrictions could not be seen as a success when most of the major issues had not been addressed.

These she cited as: underage drinking, transport and antisocial behaviour in public areas.

“Of course you’ll reduce the road toll if you either close the roads or take the cars off the road – but are you addressing the issue?” she said.

“Licensees are angry and frustrated that they have been made to feel like criminals for what is a much larger community problem.”

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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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