It’s official: despite attempts by local liquor accords to change the drinking culture on the north coast, two of the state’s most violent venues last year were in Lismore and Byron Bay.
Based on Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) data for 2012, released today, the list contains the lowest number of hotels and clubs since the scheme started in 2008.
But violence remained stubbornly high on the north coast where Byron Bay’s Cheeky Monkeys recorded 12 violent incidents in a year and Lismore’s Cocktails Bar and Nightclub recorded 14.
Both venues remain in the level two category, with Sydney nightclub Ivy the sole remaining venue in the level one category after some 24 incidents last year.
Three other Byron Bay venues, recording nine incidents each, just missed making it onto the list.
The listings come despite new tougher measures imposed on venues by local liquor accords in both towns.
There has been a major focus on alcohol-fuelled violence in Byron Bay in particular in the past 12 months, with the town’s liquor accord announcing a suite of new restrictions on venues in March following pressure by police and locals over violence spilling over into the street.
The voluntary package of measures being trialled until September includes: a lockout after 1.30am; no doubles, jugs or shooters; plus, after midnight, no cocktails and a maximum of four drinks per sale.
But Byron Liquor Accord spokesperson Hannah Spalding said the figures, which pertain to 2012, did not reflect the effort local publicans had put into fixing the problem this year.
‘Those figures run from January to December last year. We’re fully aware there have been issues with alcohol and violence in Byron Bay. The Accord has been unified this year and taking positive actions in coordination with OLGR (the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing),’ she told Echonetdaily.
Ms Spalding said she could not comment on the listing of Cheeky Monkey’s, saying that was a matter for the licensee of the venue.
She added that it was too early to tell if the Accord’s new set of measures was having the desired effect.
One glimmer of hope is that Woody’s Surf Shack, which was also on the list last year, has now been removed.
Lismore’s Liquor Accord also announced a package of measures last year aimed at curtailing alcohol-related violent crime.
By contrast, Newcastle, which has been held up as a textbook example of how to deal with alcohol-related crime, saw three of its four offenders drop off the list this year.
On top of the liquor accord’s voluntary code, venues in level two will be required by law to: stop serving alcohol 30 minutes before closing; not use glass or breakable containers after midnight; provide alcohol time-outs or free water and food for 10 minutes every hour after midnight; and maintain a detailed incident register whenever trading.
Hospitality minister George Souris said ‘the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) will be auditing the venues [on the list] to ensure they have adequate venue management plans in place to help control the risk of alcohol-related violence on their premises.
‘OLGR will also conduct ongoing checks to enforce responsible service of alcohol practices and to monitor compliance with licence conditions’, Mr Souris said.
He added that the NSW government had developed a comprehensive guide to help licensed venues deal with troublemakers – with penalties ranging from permanent venue bans to fines of up to $5,500.
‘The NSW government has made fighting alcohol-fuelled violence a priority and we’ve introduced tough new measures like the Three Strikes disciplinary scheme which can result in licence suspensions or cancellation for serial offenders, increased police powers to deal with drunks and established a trial of sobering-up centres.
‘We’re also trying to change people’s behaviour through positive measures by launching an internet-based resource to minimise alcohol-related harm among young people by educating them about the impacts that drinking can have on themselves, their friends and their community.’