The ACT government is proposing 3am last drinks for bars and nightclubs in Canberra, with the possibility of allowing venues to serve later if they pay a massively increased licence fee.
The fee for bigger bottle shops is also set to rise significantly under the government's alcohol white paper to be released by Attorney-General Simon Corbell on Wednesday for six weeks of public comment.
The paper sets out three options for last drinks: service ends at 3am with current fees; or a 300 per cent increase in fees to get a 4am licence; or a fee increase of up to 500 per cent to stay open till 5am, which is the current closing time.
Mr Corbell said a nightclub trading till 5am at the moment paid a licence fee of $27,238 a year. A 4am licence would cost just over $100,000 under the proposal, and a 5am licence would cost $163,000 a year.
The greatly increased fees for later opening would send a price signal to the venues that there were significant costs to the community in violence associated with very late trading and they would have to contribute more to help pay for police and extra safety such as lighting and security cameras, he said.
"These businesses turn over millions of dollars in revenue every year and ... there is clearly is a commercial advantage for them to trade late. What we are trying to indicate is there is also a cost to trading late."
A third of all assaults involving alcohol in public places in the city happened between 3am and 6am, according to the white paper. Half of ambulance attendances in the city between 3am and 4am involve alcohol. Canberra has 38 clubs, bars and nightclubs licensed to sell till 4am (22 of them are clubs), and another 11 licensed till 5am (the majority are nightclubs).
Off-licences would also be targeted to pay more, with a proposed 25 per cent increase in the licence fee for the bigger bottle stores – those with an annual liquor purchase of more than $1 million a year. Mr Corbell said evidence showed people were pre-loading on cheap alcohol from bottle stores, which contributed to problems later in the night, and the measure was designed to ensure bottle stores bore some of the costs.
But restaurants and small bars would get a substantially reduced licence fee under the proposal, with Mr Corbell suggesting a 75 per cent reduction in their annual fee. The big discount would apply to venues with 80 patrons or fewer and open no later than midnight.
Florists, limousines, small bed and breakfast accommodation and hairdressers would no longer need a liquor licence at all to serve limited amounts of alcohol, a measure Mr Corbell described as removing a "a silly level fo regulatory burden" from small businesses that presented no real harm from alcohol. Hospitals, nursing homes and retirement villages would also be exempt, for supplying up to two standard drinks to patients and residents a day.
A demerit system would be introduced, giving licensed premises without demerit points over three years a 5 per cent discount on their licence fee.
New laws would give pubs and other venues the right to refuse admission or throw out a disorderly or drunk patron, and make it an offence for the person to stay in the area after eviction.
A new offence would be created to capture licensed premises which knowingly or deliberately turned a blind eye to the use, possession or sale of drugs on their premises.
The Fair Trading Commissioner would also be empowered to ban certain activities at particular venues, such as mandating no shots or drink restrictions and no glass after midnight, or the installation of security cameras.
The government copped criticism last month for ruling out introducing lockout laws in Canberra, but Mr Corbell said the evidence suggested it was not lockout laws in themselves, but closing times, that made a difference to late-night violence. Lockout laws ban people from entering a venue after a certain time. In Sydney's central area, takeaway alcohol sales are banned after 10pm, people are not allowed to enter venues after 1.30am and last drinks are at 3am.