In the past, liquor licences have been transferred from small country towns to the much more populous suburbs of capital cities.
But Dan Murphy’s have turned this process on its head in a bid to install one of their massive liquor barns in the town.
Woolworths Ltd, owners of Dan Murphy’s, have submitted their application for an alcohol superstore underneath the Dendy cinema in the town’s CBD. However, instead of applying for a new licence from the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR), the retail giant is seeking to transfer an existing licence from Kensington, part of the Randwick Local Government Area (LGA) in Sydney.
‘Byron has one quarter the population of Kensington, yet according OLGR’s own statistics, it has double the liquor licences, three times the alcohol-related assaults, and ten times the DUI incidents per head of population,’ says Darren Pearson from The Cellar, a local alcohol retailer.
A petition opposing the store has gathered 2000 signatures, says Mr Pearson.
Also critical of the proposal is Nicqui Yazdi, team leader at the Byron Underage Drinking & Drug Initiative, who objects most strongly to its location. ‘It’s adjacent to the cinema and also one of the big “black spots” for youth drinking. This area of town also has high numbers of alcohol-related assaults,’ she says.
Responding to concerns regarding youth drinking, the Woolworths application states, ‘secondary sales and sales to minors tend to occur around licensed premises where it is common for young persons to be “hanging” about outside, waiting for an opportunity. Young persons are not attracted to Dan Murphy’s stores primarily because Dan Murphy’s stores are destination stores where customers arrive and leave by car.’
‘This may be true for other stores but it’s patently untrue in Byron’s case,’ says Ms Yazdi.
When asked about concerns the location would foster underage drinking, Woolworth’s spokesperson Simon Berger replied, ‘Dan Murphy’s has an industry-leading approach to responsible sale of alcohol… a campaign against secondary supply… and [will install] 30 CCTV cameras’.
Because of its size and buying power, Dan Murphy’s often offers lower prices than competitors. For example, bottleshops in Byron currently only stock 700ml bottles of vodka. A bottle of Smirnoff Red retails for around $38.99. Dan Murphy’s retail ‘super-sized’ 1L bottles of the same brand for $39.99.
While this may be a boon to responsible adults, Mr Pearson cites a fistful of studies correlating cheap, readily available alcohol with higher crime rates.
‘Byron Shire Council, Byron Public School, the cinema and several local Indigenous organisations have failed to respond to Woolworths’ community consultation.
Woolworths’ application makes this out to be tacit approval,’ says Ms Yazdi.
Submissions to the OLGR can be made via email to [email protected] citing application Number: 1-1245465660.
Submissions close at the end of this week.