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September 17, 2021

Liquor precinct plans to be explored by Byron Council

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Plans for a Byron Bay liquor accord precinct will be explored after Byron Shire Council voted unanimously in favour at yesterday’s ordinary meeting.

Designed to work alongside liquor accords, precincts are generally found in larger city areas and are established by the Office of Liquor and Gaming, (OLGR), and would have mandatory conditions. According to www.olgr.nsw.gov.au, ‘Membership of, and active participation in, these [precinct liquor] accords is mandatory for late-night licensed venues within the PLA boundary.’

The motion’s author, Cr Paul Spooner, says he changed his mind on the issue after he attended the recent Last Drinks at 12 meeting, where health professionals and police spoke firsthand of the issues they face with alcohol-fuelled violence. The meeting drew a full house and also highlighted the high rates of incidents in Byron Bay compared to other areas. However the town’s liquor accord chairperson Hannah Spalding says that their self-imposed measures are now taking effect and wouldn’t necessarily stop after the review later in the year.

Cr Spooner told The Echo, ‘Council will be asking the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) to review extended trading liquor licences currently operating in Byron Bay. This means any after-midnight liquor licences.

‘This is to ascertain what is in the community’s best interests, given the overwhelming number of harmful incidents occur at that time of night. Council has also recommended that there be a freeze on the granting of any new extended trading liquor licences while the review is undertaken.’

In morning public access at Thursday’s meeting, Last Drinks at 12 representatives asked Council to support the group’s aims.

Dr Blake Eddington told the gallery he works at Tweed Hospital but is on call 24/7 for the Byron Hospital. ‘I am here as an advocate for young people’s lives,’ he said.

‘If you knew of a way of reducing the harm and could save lives, would you do it? Would you do something to help?

‘It takes last drinks at 12, not voluntary restrictions and CCTV. How many assaults – physical and potentially sexual – could be prevented by implementing the plan of last service of alcohol at midnight (not venue closure at midnight).’

Dr Eddington later told The Echo, ‘The overwhelming evidence is that for every hour earlier a venue ceases the serving of alcohol, physical assaults decrease by approximately 17 per cent. A precinct liquor accord (PLA) changes the Byron Bay Liquor Accord (BBLA) conditions from voluntary to mandatory and enforceable; however, I am unaware of any evidence demonstrating a significant decrease in alcohol-related violence after a PLA has been established in isolation. Thus my concern is that if we solely focus on a PLA without bringing back the service of alcohol time the alcohol-related violence will continue unabated.’

Fellow representative and realtor Chris Hanley added at the meeting that after eight months research, the only evidence-based findings to reduce the statistics was reducing alcohol supply. ‘We can’t find evidence that voluntary restrictions work; however, the accord should be congratulated for their action on this and we support them. The only thing that seems to work is closing earlier… whether in Norway or Newcastle. Why don’t we just try it?’

If adopted, the restrictions would directly impact on around a half a dozen licensed venues that are currently open until 3am. Cr Spooner asked about economic impacts with closing earlier to which Mr Hanley replied that there may be a dip but evidence suggests that venues and a town’s economy recover.

When introducing the motion, Cr Spooner said,’This about stopping the supply of booze, not the opening hours. This is not anti-alcohol or establishments, this is pro Byron Bay and acknowledges we have a problem.’

During debate later in the day, Cr Sol Ibrahim acknowledged problems, but, ‘objects to the way it’s being addressed.’

‘When there is risks, we weigh them up. I don’t see the Last Drinks at 12 people representing the people affected. They are not out at theses times. I go out late at night and have not been at risk. It’s a simplistic view. I want to drink after midnight, and so do my friends. We need more police presence and compliance by licensees.’

But Cr Basil Cameron said it’s been an issue for over 20 years and remains unresolved. ‘A substantial proportion of the public had valid concerns for the lack of a real effort to make change. This is not a small part of the community that want these changes. We have nothing to lose.’

Cr Chris Cubis asked if there had been enough consultation with youth, business and the liquor accord. ‘What will the kids do? Where will they go – to the beach, the park? We know that there are some that want to shut down parts of the tourism industry… but we haven’t done our bit. This will affect the town’s economy.’

Mayor Richardson reminded councillors the motion was not an endorsement of the Last Drinks at 12 group. ‘Instead, it shows support for a precinct and recommends a freeze on extending hours.’

The mayor also asked planning staff what effects the NSW government’s new development overhaul plans would have. Planning director Ray Darney replied that the general direction of the paper could mean that ‘small bars may not need the same levels of approvals’, and that it could result in ‘less community engagement’.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone remember what was on in the past…after the end of prohibition the closing time was 6 pm…and then it was 10 pm for a very long time, and only one, if any, “bottle” shop in a town, that also had early closing and restricted hours of sale. Weekend service was very restricted.

    There were still problems, but absolutely nothing like now.

    Odd how so many do not yet understand that alcohol is a very damaging & dangerous drug that needs better control.
    One small drink is ok if you have no condition to worsen or if you use no big pharma..more than that and it goes upside down fast..as we all see…why can’t we protect lives and property by having it less available when it gets the worst, at least..??
    We have a very serious problem in Byron to address, not ignore or go sideways about, as has been the case. How much more serious damage is to occur before something is done to stop it..its not just about profits at any cost otherwise…we have a very serious culture & ignorance problem with this that needs better solution right away. End the waffle and save a life. It may be yours…

  2. Cr. Chris Cubis appears only to be interested in the affect on Byron’s economy. He asks whether youth have been consulted. By definition youth are in the age group 15 to 24 years. Youth under the age of 18 are not allowed on licensed premises. Precincts and more stringent controls may help to control the alcohol induced violence and image that Byron is a “party town “.

    Cr. Cubis states “we know that there are some who want to shut down parts of the tourism industry”. I assume that he is referring to the second major problem affecting Byron – illegal holiday letting. Cr. Cubis needs to be reminded that holiday lets are illegal in Byron 2(a) Residential Zones. By not allowing prosecution of these illegal businesses then he is personally complicit in the breaking of the Council’s own law.

  3. So Sol, you’re weighing up the risks are you. What about the health risks of those who are getting bashed and sexually assaulted. Sounds more like you’re making sure no one spoils your fun. At least 3 of the Last Drinks at 12 are involved with the alcohol violence after hours by working in Byron or Tweed hospitals or with the youth of Byron. Your job is to know your facts if you are going to represent the community in council. Of course we represent the young people, we are trying to stop the alcohol related violence and sexual assault. We are saying that last drinks at 12 would reduce alcohol related violence by 50%. That’s fifty percent, no other measure of any sort could bring about a social or health change of that magnitude. If you either spoke to police or took the time to attend the public meetings at the Byron Community Centre in February, you would know that police numbers were significantly increased in Byron in 2012 on request of the community and the alcohol violence went UP. Get your facts right, more police would not solve the problem. You want to drink after midnight, well make sure the booze bus does not get you. Byron has 3 times the State average for drink driving. The only thing you did get right was to say that the 5 late night alcohol venues are not adhering to the responsible sale of alcohol conditions of their licences. Permissiveness is what everyone wants in Byron, but it can go too far.

  4. I have spent the last 2 weeks travelling around North Queensland and when I say I am from Byron Bay they all ask about the alcohol violence happening down there,this is very sad for our image.Having spent all my life living and loving Byron Bay I am reluctant to say I am from here now.When I spent 6 months travelling around Australia back in 2003 most people would say a fantastic place Byron Bay was.I am so worried that this bad publicity (but true) is travelling via word of mouth thru the grey nomad and baby boomer travelling sector,and we do need these tourists as much as the younger crowd.
    Tonight as I walked around Cairns the place is full of young,old and families walking around the Esplanade ,but you know what was missing I could not see anybody drinking alcohol in the parks.The signs up here are very straight forward and large with No Alcohol in Public Places written on them.
    I loved drinking and partying at the pubs in Byron Bay back in the 80s,90s and early 2000s but the mix of drugs (incl alcohol) with the high energy drinks and feeding it until 3am is destroying our beautiful peaceful culture .Please bring back some of the feel that was lost.

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