The restaurant and bar at Byron Bay’s Aquarius backpackers hostel has voluntarily closed after they claim undercover officers from The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) ‘entrapped’ the establishment in a licensing sting.
Twenty staff will lose their jobs and, ‘another 15 to 20 jobs will be affected indirectly, including security, cleaners and suppliers,’ says Dr Harry Chua, who is the director and secretary of Sixth Lafite Pty Ltd, the company owns the Aquarius Restaurant Bar.
Dr Chua released a statement on Sunday night insisting that the restaurant/bar had not broken any NSW licensing laws.
He says the licence allows them to serve liquor when meals are provided. ‘On the night of June 8, 2013, undercover officers from OLGR came into our premises, and purchased a light meal from the BBQ. They had their wrist stamped and proceeded to purchase alcohol.
‘Apparently we did the wrong thing as they had not eaten their meal. Besides the fact that this is entrapment, the legislation says that meals are to be “provided”, it doesn’t say “consumed”.
‘In any case, to get our staff to monitor whether meals being purchased are actually eaten, whether food is spat out or swallowed is going beyond their job description.’
He says the pressure put on Aquarius staff and management to monitor food consumption is ‘unfair, too onerous and creates substantial stress and is ultimately untenable.’
‘Sixth Lafite Pty Ltd will shortly apply for a primary service of alcohol (PSA) license. While we wait for the approval, Aquarius Restaurant Bar will cease trading on June 17, 2013 indefinitely.
‘It is also unfortunate that with the closure of our bar/restaurant, we will not have the staff and security to monitor the alcohol consumption of the 160 backpackers (soon to be 304) who reside here.’
He added that in the six years since his company purchased and started to run the business, they have never had any alcohol-related violence or problems due to the good work of management, staff and security.
‘We all take our duty of care and responsible service of alcohol seriously. And on top of that we close before midnight.
‘We now have no way to monitor the alcohol consumption of the backpackers, who may well go back to the old days of drinking in their rooms and the common areas of the hostel then proceed to party on in Jonson Street.’
OLGR could not be contacted for comment as it was a public holiday and Dr Chua’s statement was released Sunday.