A David-and-Goliath style of win by a small community against a giant liquor retailer is how some have described a decision yesterday rejecting a liquor licence application for a Dan Murphy’s bottle shop in Byron Bay’s main street.
The Independent Gaming and Liquor Authority said it could not ignore ‘prevailing exposure’ of the community to ‘alcohol-related harm and disturbance’ in considering the social impact of the outlet proposed by the Woolworths-owned liquor chain.
Authority chairman Chris Sidoti said his decision upheld the need to minimise the harm associated with misuse and abuse of liquor.
Community leaders have welcomed the decision. The high rate of alcohol-fuelled violence, particularly at weekends, has given Byron Bay a nasty reputation, with late-night brawling and assaults common and police struggling to keep a lid on it.
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson said it was a massive win and the authority had listened to the huge outcry by the community to yet another liquor outlet.
A month ago, a public meeting in Byron Bay organised by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing heard the community’s concerns against the outlet, as well as arguments for it by a representative from Dan Murphy’s.
The licence application was the last hurdle for the retailer to establish a bottle shop in Jonson Street on the ground floor of the current Dendy Cinema building.
Byron youth worker Nicqui Yazdi said the decision and community campaign against a further alcohol retailer had set a good precedent and would help inspire other small communities to say ‘No’ to more alcohol outlets.
Tweed-Byron police commander Superintendent Stuart Wilkins said the authority had heard and responded to police concerns on the issue ‘loud and clear’, but there was still more to do to address the problem.
Cr Richardson said another outlet selling alcohol in the centre of Byron Bay ‘would not have sent the right message’, especially for the shire’s young people, and it was important to foster a safe environment for them.
He said increasing access to alcohol for residents and visitors would ‘only have exacerbated’ the problems the community had with booze-fuelled antisocial behaviour.
Cr Richardson said the proposed new bottleshop didn’t pass the social-impact test, and thanked the authority for holding the public hearing in Byron Bay and ‘listening to the community’.
Ms Yazdi, of the Byron Underage Drinking and Drug Initiative (BUDDI), said Byron Bay already struggled with the issue and the outlet would only have added to problem.
She said other communities could take heart from the decision and put in place similar programs to BUDDI to tackle underage drinking.
Meanwhile, Byron Youth Service (BYS) has taken the lead to change the binge-drinking culture of the shire, and Australia, with its Cringe the Binge campaign.
‘The community has had enough of the negative impacts of binge drinking,’ Di Mahoney, director of BYS says.
‘We have been battling with binge drinking here in Byron Bay for many years and we want our young people, our community, parents, politicians, business and community leaders, and tourists to join us in a National Weekend of Action to Reverse Youth Binge Drinking, 9–11 November.
‘Byron Bay is a microcosm of all the negative impacts of binge drinking / drinking driving, multiple fatalities, sexual assault, street violence, brawls, domestic violence and trauma, anxieties and depression, and the early initiation of young people into alcohol consumption,’ Ms Mahoney said.
‘On the National Weekend of Action we are asking all Australians to stop and think about their use of alcohol and donate, via our website www.cringethebinge.com.au, what they would normally spend on alcohol.’
The donations will fund programs that aim to reverse youth binge drinking. All donations over $10 go into a draw to win a weekend in Byron Bay with accommodation, meals and massages.