Luis Feliu and Hans Lovejoy
Tweed-Byron police commander superintendent Stuart Wilkins and local MP Don Page are among a chorus of community members welcoming last week’s decision by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority to refuse an application by liquor baron Dan Murphy’s to transfer a Sydney licence to Byron Bay and open a massive discount liquor outlet in the heart of town.
Supt 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 issue of problem drinking.
And state member for Ballina, Don Page, said, ‘This is the right decision and I am pleased that the independent body has come to the same conclusion that police, the local community and myself all came to – that this is not the right location for another liquor outlet in Byron Bay. I made a submission to the Authority stating concerns that I shared with various sectors of the Byron community. The concerns included the proposed location in the CBD and the high rate of alcohol-related assaults that have been occurring in Byron Bay,’ he said.
‘I note the crime statistics that the Authority relied on in coming to its decision, which are a major concern.
‘According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics the Byron LGA recorded almost four times as many alcohol-related non-domestic violence assaults as the statewide average.
‘That is 787.6 incidents per 100,000 persons compared to a statewide rate of 209.5. As I stated in my submission, I am not opposed to a Dan Murphy’s in Byron Bay, but I strongly believe that the CBD is not the right location for another liquor outlet.
‘Neither of the Dan Murphy’s outlets in Lismore or Ballina is located in the CBD and I believe the argument against it being located in the Byron CBD is even stronger,’ Mr Page said.
President of Byron’s chamber of commerce, Byron United, also agreed that the location was not appropriate.
Paul Waters, who is also on the board of the Byron Bay Liquor Accord, said, ‘Byron United has said all along this was not the right place for an alcohol outlet, and we were happy for it to be in the industrial estate, for example’.
The decision came after a public meeting last month, organised by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, heard overwhelming community concern against the plans.
A wide cross-section of the community, including church leaders, police, politicians, school teachers and teenagers, gave passionate addresses to the panel for over five hours.
No appeal available
When asked if Dan Murphy’s would seek to re-apply, Woolworths’s media relations manager told Echonetdaily, ‘We are examining the decision’.
Similarly, owner of the retail space where it was planned, Gold Coast-based Robert Badalotti of Azzura Developments, is staying tight-lipped.
His property manager Jamie Bourke told Echonetdaily, ‘I have been told by the landlord not to discuss the property at this point’.
As to what options are now available to Woolworths, a spokesperson for the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority told Echonetdaily, ‘there is no appeal available under the Liquor Act on the merits of a decision made by the Authority on an application.
‘But applicants are free to submit a fresh application. If an applicant believes the Authority, in making its decision, has made an error of law, it can appeal to the Supreme Court.’
When asked for data on refusals by the Authority, the spokesperson said they were unable to provide that; ‘However, the number of refusals would be a small proportion of the number of applications that are approved.’
The Authority previously told Echonetdaily that Byron’s case received the largest number of submissions to date.
The number of liquor licences in Byron Shire has increased slightly in recent years, according to the Authority’s 2010/11 annual report. In 2008/09 it was 104, in 2009/10 it was 112 and in 2010/11, 114 licences were operating.