By James Atkinson
A Western Australian hospitality industry veteran who has invested $1 million in a wine bar venture has had his liquor licence application refused, despite unanimous council support and widespread community backing.
Daniel Morris, formerly of WA restaurants Balthazar and Il Lido, recently opened wine bar and restaurant The Precinct in the Perth suburb of Victoria Park.
The new venue has been operating as a BYO restaurant while Morris and business partner Sarita Leal await liquor licence approval.
Their initial application to the Director of Liquor Licensing was refused because they did not give written evidence in support of their Public Interest Assessment – but Morris told TheShout that this requirement was not stipulated by the regulator.
"They never actually said you 'must 'supply evidence, they said you may 'wish' to," he said.
Morris and Leal appealed the decision to the Liquor Commission, and obtained 350 signatures, 850 Facebook 'likes' and 70 written letters in support of the new venture, as well as council backing.
But he was informed that this evidence was not admissible in the hearing by the Commission, which was only able to review the case on the same evidence that was before the Director of Liquor Licensing.
Morris said the wine bar had "fully unanimous" support from the council, which attended the hearing but was precluded from influencing proceedings for the same reason.
"We're not a venue where young kids are coming in to drink and get drunk, it's a venue for people are have nice food and experience nice wines," he said.
In rejecting the application, Liquor Commission Member Helen Cogan said it was not sufficient for a licence applicant "merely to express opinions and make assertions about the perceived benefits of its application".
"Such opinions and assertions must be supported by an appropriate level of evidence," she said.
"The original application did not include any submission that comment in social media was to be considered; accordingly it cannot be considered in this application."
Morris said the licence refusal has been hugely costly for him and Leal, with liquor sales likely to comprise up to 40 to 50 per cent of the venue's revenue.
"We've invested $1 million in this place, we can't just say, 'we'll see you later'."
"We've got bills to pay."