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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

Why the Liquor Accord’s new plan won’t work

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The out of control atmosphere in Byron Bay on New Years Eve fed into serious concerns in the town that alcohol related violence was spiralling out of control.

Andrew ‘Woody’ Woodburn

As an RSA marshal at Lennox Hotel and having formerly worked at various Byron venues, I am in a position to explain why any plan to end the Bay’s alcohol fuelled violence must be mandatory.

Byron Liquor Accord states that its venues will voluntarily implement various measures to address the problems Byron is facing.

One of them relates to the service of alcohol and shots.

The Liquor Accord for the past several years has agreed that venues would not serve doubles or shots, yet it is common knowledge that at least three venues in Byron do actually serve shots and have done for years.

Therefore the Liquor Accord is not able to control its member’s actions, which is why these measures must be mandatory.

One of the venues that serves shots in Byron is the same venue which made it to the list of category 2 in ‘alcohol related violence in NSW, in 2012’.

Other measures

The best measure other than no shots or doubles would be not promoting rapid drinking. Too often venues serve up a shot of spirit and serve it with ice (a loophole as it’s not a shot anymore). The customer then removes the ice and skulls the drink. Venues tolerate this by turning a blind eye! If venues are strictly not to permit or promote rapid drinking then we would, over time, play a very strong role in changing the current culture of antisocial behaviour that we are confronted with nearly every night.

Four drinks per person after midnight is foolish and it should be dropped to two drinks pp. Large shouts late at night should be discouraged as this is the easiest way for people to slip under the radar. Quite often some people in the shout don’t leave to buy the drinks therefore their intoxication levels are not observed by venue staff when approaching the bar or ordering drinks. Also allowing four drinks pp enables stockpiling of drinks, which results in customers sculling several drinks before departing the venue, consequentially experiencing delayed intoxication, generally when the customer is in the streets.

No cocktails – this is a good thing as they generally equate to 1.5–2 standard drinks per serve, but note that pre-mixed drinks (RTD – ready to drink) often have 1.5–2 standard drinks per serve.

Energy drinks should be outlawed as mixing a depressant with a stimulant is not good for anyone’s health, but this is another argument. Suggesting this stops after 2am seems pointless and I would suggest none available for sale after midnight therefore people not having to suffer the effects of such a drink after 2–3am.

RTDs No RTDs with more than five per cent alcohol sold at any time… this is a good thing!

RSA marshals Venues trading past 2am must have one RSA marshal – when does the RSA marshal kick in? At 2am?

  • I suggest that venues trading past midnight must have an RSA marshal and they are required to start one hour prior to the venue getting busy. This way they can monitor the customers who cross over from day into the night.

No cheap cleanskins – what do we class as cheap?

No 4lt wines – suppliers will just go crazy on further production of two litres. Also you can buy 2lt Smirnoff vodka casks so you will probably see an increase in these sales as a result.

One of the main objectives of RSA is to serve and promote alcohol responsibly and minimise harm associated with the consumption of alcohol so my question is ‘where is the responsible service in the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) when serving a patron a shot or double bourbon and coke?’ There is only one reason these customers are drinking rapidly and that is to get smashed!

At the Lennox Hotel where I am RSA marshal we have taken a very strong stance against antisocial behaviour and not permitting/promoting rapid drinking. We do this by having an RSA marshal on from 8pm Friday and Saturday nights, therefore having a strong presence; we also have a strict house policy, therefore all staff understand what we do and do not tolerate! Over the past 12 months we have seen a marked improvement of patron behaviour and we have successfully changed the drinking culture in the venue. Obviously we still have some issues but we now have greater control.

Andrew Woodburn has managed large venues in Sydney, Cairns, Rockhampton, Ipswich, England and Byron Bay over the past 22 years. He is now the RSA marshal and casual manager of Lennox Hotel. For the past year he has been training RSA on the northern rivers. He has also worked with the Byron YAC and Goonellabah YWCA teaching hospitality to kids at risk.

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