One of Byron Bay’s hotspot venues for alcohol-fuelled violence has been targeted with the threat of losing its licence under new government rules taking effect tomorrow, 1 June.
Woody’s Surf Shack in Jonson Street, with 18 violent incidents recorded, has been listed among the state’s most violent venues by authorities and will now face a crackdown under the government’s licensing scheme.
Increasing brawling and assaults in Byron Bay’s CBD, including Jonson Street, have thrown the spotlight on the town, which police say is the fourth most violence- and assault-ridden area in the state. The issue has sparked a debate about the best way to curb alcohol-fuelled violence, with CCTV cameras being pushed by the town’s business chamber, local police and pub/club industry.
But Byron Shire Council prefers other measures be tried instead, including earlier closing times by the town’s many licensed premises: exceeding 50 in the CBD.
Hospitality minister George Souris yesterday released a revised list of violent venues, with 31 licensed premises in NSW subject to special licensing conditions based on the latest alcohol-related violence statistics.
Mr Souris said seven venues recorded 19 or more assaults in a 12-month period and would be subject to Level 1 restrictions for the next six months, the lowest number since the scheme’s inception in 2008.
He said 24 venues recorded between 12 and 18 violent incidents in a year to be classified as Level 2 premises, which included the Byron Bay venue that promotes itself on its website as ‘Byron’s late-night hangout and bar’.
The review of the violent venues list is based on statistics from the 2011 calendar year, and Woody’s Surf Shack is one of five NSW premises included on the list for the first time.
Mr Souris said that this year’s lower assault statistics were encouraging, in part due to the government’s Three Strikes disciplinary scheme which strongly motivated ‘all licensed venues to lift their game or risk the ultimate sanction, loss of licence’.
‘It is now crystal clear that we will crack down on venues that allow themselves to become magnets for alcohol-fuelled violence and antisocial behaviour that threatens public safety,’ he said.
‘Licensees need to ensure their premises operate responsibly and safely.
‘Those refusing to curb alcohol-related violence will also suffer the consequences of tougher operating restrictions and possible licence suspension or cancellation if they continue to commit liquor law breaches under our Three Strikes disciplinary scheme.’
Mr Souris says the government is reviewing the violent-venues scheme to assess its ongoing effectiveness in conjunction with other alcohol-related initiatives, including expanded police move-on powers, the intoxicated and disorderly offence, intended trial of sobering-up centres and the Three Strikes disciplinary scheme.
Under Level 2 restrictions (12 to 18 violent incidents in a year) venues have to: stop selling alcohol 30 minutes before closing; stop using glass or breakable containers after midnight; stop serving alcohol (time-outs) or provide free water and food for 10 minutes every hour after midnight; and maintain a detailed incident register whenever trading.