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