ACT News


Reward good bars, suggest hotels

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The hotels lobby has called for rewards for well-behaved bars, pubs and clubs, while urging the government to focus on supermarkets and liquor stores to prevent young revellers pre-loading on alcohol.

The ACT government introduced drastically higher liquor licensing fees for licensed premises through its tough 2010 liquor reforms, with higher costs for those deemed to pose the most risk to the community.

The fee structure had a financial impact on many venues, including Kingston's popular Holy Grail bar, which said the increased costs were a major reason for its closure in February this year.

Less than a year after introducing the scheme, the government overhauled the fee structure to relieve the burden on smaller venues, which complained they were shouldering an unfair proportion of the fees.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education also found that the number of licensed venues seemed not to have changed since the new risk-based fee structure was introduced.


The government is now conducting a review into the effectiveness of the 2010 reforms in their first two years of operation.

The Australian Hotels Association ACT - which lobbies for pubs, bars, and clubs - has urged the government to review the fee structure.

It says the current licensing fees, coupled with a sharp downturn in trade, are still hitting venues hard.

''It's been a really tough year, right across the board,'' general manager Brad Watts said.

''I spoke to four or five different licensees around town today, and they're down anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent this year, in terms of turnover,'' he said.

The AHA believes alcohol-related crime has come down significantly in the ACT since the introduction of the 2010 reforms.

But it has warned the fees are still placing an unfair burden on its members, an impact that had flowed through to the rest of the ACT economy.

Mr Watts said the government must shift the onus onto large supermarkets and liquor retailers, which are selling alcohol in bulk at discounted prices and facilitating ''pre-loading'', or drinking to excess before revellers head out.

''We're seeing that as a major problem, people going out buying cheap, discounted alcohol before they go out, consuming it unsafely in an unregulated environment, car parks, outdoors, and then taking the problem indoors,'' Mr Watts said.

''What we want to see is the off-licence venues paying higher fees to cover that risk factor, because we don't really think that's been covered under the new act,'' he said.

The AHA has also called for the introduction of a system which rewards well-behaved venues with lower fees if they prevent alcohol-fuelled offences.

A similar ''star system'' has been introduced in Victoria, where licensees who do the right thing keep their star rating, and are rewarded.

''If there is a strong compliance, [if] you've followed the new act to the book, then there should be some sort of leniency given to us,'' Mr Watts said.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the current two-year review into the effectiveness of the 2010 reforms would consider such a scheme.

Mr Corbell said issues relating to pre-loading and off-licences would also be examined by the review.

''We will also be looking very closely at the issue of pre-loading and whether or not we need to adjust the licence structure when it comes to off-licences, who are selling cheap alcohol for people to pre-load before they come to the entertainment precinct,'' he said.