"Recipe for trouble": George Souris' revelations regarding Sydney's lockout laws have been criticised by experts studying Australia's drinking culture.
Customers of pubs and nightclubs in central Sydney will be allowed to buy four drinks per person shortly before a 3am alcohol curfew comes into force, allowing them to drink well beyond the cut-off time.
The revelation by Hospitality Minister George Souris has been slammed as a ''recipe for trouble'' and a sop to the hotels industry which undermines the intent of the laws designed to counter alcohol-related violence.
Michael Thorn, chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, said ''hoarding'' of drinks was ''an obvious risk''.
New rules came into force on Monday imposing a 1.30am lockout and 3am curfew for alcohol service for venues across a newly-defined CBD entertainment precinct.
Explaining the regime on Monday, Mr Souris revealed a purchase limit of four drinks per person will apply right up to the 3am cut-off. This was in part to avoid having all patrons leaving the venue at once.
''You can buy four drinks per person just before 3am,'' he said. ''Our entire plan is that we spread the departures.''
While venues are required to cease alcohol service at 3am, they will be allowed to remain open for as long as their trading hours permit, Mr Souris explained.
''After 3am the venue may stay open, of course, until its normal trading hours and then 5am is when a new day starts and alcohol may be commenced again at 5am.''
Later, a spokesman for Mr Souris said the decision to allow a four drinks per person limit before 3am was based on existing restrictions on pubs and clubs in Kings Cross. The spokesman said the four-drink per person limit was the ''recommended benchmark'' for responsible service of alcohol guidelines in NSW.
But Mr Thorn said: ''Four drinks per person is the National Health and Medical Research Council's recommendation of the total for the day for minimising short term risk. If that's what the government is proposing, I think that is quite extraoardinary and highly problematic.''
Mr Thorn said the announcement was ''not what the public expected'' from the new laws and ''runs counter to what the Premier [Barry O'Farrell] is trying to achieve''.
''Selling four drinks to an individual may be a fair thing if you're thinking about it at midnight in Kings Cross, but at 3am I'd question whether that's a responsible action on the part of a proprietor,'' he said.
Associate professor Peter Miller, author of Australia's two largest studies on drinking culture, said allowing the four-drink rule was a ''recipe for trouble''.
Professor Miller, with the school of psychology at Deakin University, said ''generally'' pubs kick people out when alcohol service ends.
''This is an interesting twist on it and it's hard to imagine why, other than some people have advocated to say if you do it this way you won't hurt us as much,'' he said. ''Realistically they're not trading until three; realistically they're trading until four if you can buy four drinks and don't have to leave.''
A manager of a Sydney bar with a late licence told Fairfax Media that hoarding drinks was a Responsible Service of Alcohol issue.
''Hoarding drinks is a risk but it's one of those commonsense things,'' Phil Gannon, General Manager at Frankie's Bar and Pizza, said. ''The bartender will have to make a decision … is [the customer] buying four drinks for himself or for his friends?''
Jimmy Sing, owner of Goodgod Small Club, said serving a large number of drinks just before 3am means judging the levels of intoxication of the person coming to the bar, and any of their friends.
"As it approached that time we'd be reluctant to serve that many drinks.
"But if they've got their friends around them - and we've judged them all to not be intoxicated - then we'd be happy to serve them."
Mr Sing said it was about what was responsible service of alcohol in the circumstances.
with Alexandra Back