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Durham Castle Arms pub buckling under rising costs

Bar manager of the Durham in Kingston Adrian Moran says business is bad.

Bar manager of the Durham in Kingston Adrian Moran says business is bad. Photo: Jay Cronan

The Durham Castle Arms is hurting. The pub's manager of seven years, Adrian Moran, says the future of the Kingston venue is fraught with uncertainty, with business as bad as he's ever seen it.

He has laid off staff - two full-time chefs, four casuals and a security guard - and made a plea to the landlord for a reduction in rent.

Owner Josh Gray said the new risk-based liquor licensing fees, increased substantially with the 2010 reforms, had hit hard.

If things do not change, Mr Gray said he may have to consider selling up, after pouring 20 years of his life into the venue. ''You can see, it's getting a bit tatty in here and it's basically because we can't afford to replace the bits and pieces we need,'' he said.

''And that goes for security as well, the CCTV in here, it's archaic and the frame rate on it is horrendous.''

Mr Gray, also a member of the Australian Hotels Association, said the Durham was forking out the same amount of fees as larger venues, such as the Canberra Southern Cross Club and the Hellenic Club, despite having a maximum capacity of just 127 people.

The Durham faces a host of other challenging business conditions, from dwindling patron numbers and other tighter regulations associated with the 2010 reforms, to increasing labour costs, input costs and rates.

All of those extra financial burdens have been passed on to the Durham's patrons, generally in the form of increased drink prices.

''Now we're dealing with the consequences of that, trying to make a dollar in an environment where you have less margins, less customers, spending less per head,'' Mr Gray said.

He said the new risk-based licensing system placed an unfair burden on the on-licensed venues, such as pubs, bars and clubs.

He said the focus needed to be on off-licences, such as supermarkets, where liquor was bought in bulk at cheap prices.

Mr Gray said the issue of pre-loading, or drinking large volumes of alcohol before going out, was not being tackled properly in the government's new liquor scheme.

''If you go to an off-licence, to get the good deal, you've pretty much got to buy 50 or more standard drinks to get the best price,'' he said.

''I'd say a lot of the harm is created out there by selling people 50 or 60 standard drinks at once, to take home, to drink in … an unregulated environment, unsafely, the violence is spread out throughout the community.''


  • Be a shame if it closes. The 'Kingo' pub is expensive and without the Duz, it leaves just other expensive places to go for a pint. That, will be a pain.

    Date and time
    December 10, 2013, 11:41AM
    • As far as this story goes, the Durham is not the only licences establishment hurting and the liquor licence is just one of many price factors in the industry, mind you, a pretty prominent one. It seems to me that the A.C.T. Government set their sites a few years back to get rid of Taverns and Nightclubs to make way for the dominance of Clubs, hence more profit from poker machines for the local government coffers. You just need to look at the newer suburbs... No Taverns, Bars ...just Clubs, and no zoning for any of the above. Taverns and Bars are slowly going to the wall because of greedy landlords, greedy government charges and fees like the liquor licensing, so the Government's plan is working. "Shop Small" is a current campaign by smaller shops, and this goes for your local bar as we'll, they need your support!

      Aussie hurting
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 2:16PM
      • Aussie hurting... you are actually misinformed. When the new Act came in there were just 62 licensed clubs. There are now 58. So there are actually less clubs.

        They also pay nearly $17,000 to 4am for their liquor license whilst in NSW they pay $3,500.

        Very small growth in the sector has actually been in small bars.... HonkyTonks, Tree House, Public Bar, Playground, La De Da and Kremlin to name a few. Small bars with a foot print under 150 pay $10K to 4am (even less for under 80) but most choose to shut at 2am. So bars aren't paying as much as clubs as this article misinforms.

        Arguably though they regime has resulted in a better quality of small venue rather than a tavern!

        For proof of fees see liquor fee determination here:

        So under the new regime small bars have actually increased marginally whilst clubs have gone to the wall... just saying. Bottom line everyone is paying too much!

        Just Saying
        Blah Blah
        Date and time
        December 10, 2013, 4:23PM
    • Wow, now that is some misinformation in itself but also a LACK of information as well. Misinformation as far as fees go ... Most bars choose to close at 2am because they cannot afford to pay the extra fees to stay open later.The Clubs are NOT paying less than Bars, the fees are the same (for the same floor space, and same hours) but the ability of a Club to earn money in the extra two hours in comparison to a Bar is way different. Anyhow, I agree, everyone is paying too much.

      Aussie hurting
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 9:31PM
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