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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Midnight fight club

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I’ve spent half of my adult years in a holiday town in England and half in Byron Bay. I also enjoy a night in the pub from time to time.

When I left England, the rule was that all pubs closed at 11.30pm, with last orders being at 11pm. I regularly saw fights at kick-out time and some were truly horrific. They mostly occurred at the bus stop, taxi rank or kebab shop. Why? Because all the pubs closed at the same time and every drinker in town was on the street. Although their intentions are good, this scenario is exactly what the ‘Last drinks at 12’ campaign will deliver.

Since living in Byron, I’ve witnessed violence only twice. Once when my friends were attacked after a meal at The Balcony. The attackers weren’t tourists and they weren’t drunk – they were very sober local youths out for some tourist bashing. The other time was a fight in broad daylight between local lads and a tourist surfer near Woolies.

I went back to visit England and the rules had changed. The government had looked at Europe, where there was less alcohol-related violence, and had changed the rules to move in line with the continent. Pubs could open for as long as they liked; they had to apply for a specific licence, inform the police, and could be stripped of their licence if they didn’t comply. The result? People came and went as they pleased. There was no mass exodus of drunks, no massive queue at the taxi rank and a less intimidating experience all around.

You have a simple choice:

For more fights and too much trouble for our local police force to deal with, support ‘Last Drinks at 12’. You’ll probably also find that taxi drivers won’t want to work the night shift, late-night food outlets will need security, the local hospital will be overrun, and the kind of tourists that the town wants to attract won’t come here. Businesses will reduce staff hours and local families will be worse off.

For a night out without being intimidated, oppose the ‘Last Drinks at 12’ mass exodus of alcohol-fuelled youths – the Midnight Fight Club!

We know prohibition doesn’t work and that a small few are making plenty of money selling alcohol.  Maybe they should contribute to a fund that protects their businesses as well as the people of the town. This could be spent on: better lighting, security, free transport, or whatever the ‘experts’ believe will help us all the best.

Personally, I don’t want to live in a town where I’m scared to go out for a drink if it means everyone meeting for a brawl on Jonson St. I’m even more scared for my teenage daughter.

Ashley Burke-Smith, Suffolk Park.

 


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Simple answer Ashley is ‘Last drink at 12’ but provide entertainment coffee etc just no alcohol and close later.
    The culture of drinking until you are trashed has to be changed and it is up to the community to do it through finding ways to do that.
    Its obvious that young people want to have a good time socialise and party… that shouldn’t be banned just moderated i.e. less alcohol. So why not keep places open so they can ‘have fun etc’ and not supply alcohol.
    Talented entertainers musicians stand-up comedians etc are plentiful. The publicans are the ones needing the education/regulating. Instead of pubs/clubs relying on grog for their income they need to shift focus to entertainment/food dancing.
    Time to think outside the square the people are there wanting to spend their money… they are not the ones to be regulated they are simple responding to the environment/culture they are in which primarily is get trashed on grog.
    Change the environment and they will respond accordingly.

  2. Barry above is exactly right.
    Last drinks at 12, but stay open for as long as people want to party.
    Venues could charge an entry fee for people arriving after 12.
    Or not. As they see fit.

  3. Let me get this right. Although all the evidence is to the contrary. Although all the research papers, case studies and reports on this particular issue find that reducing the supply of alcohol earlier has a direct link to reducing alcohol related violence you believe that because you witnessed a bunch of fights in England when you were younger and that pubs shut earlier that Byron shouldn’t adopt these measures? You say you’ve only witnessed a 2 fights since living in Byron and they instigated by local youths and local lads. But the actual statistics tell a completely different story. How can you turn a blind eye to the actual facts? Are the police making up these statistics?
    This is not a simple choice. In fact its quite complicated.
    But at least lets debate the issues on facts and evidence not anecdotes from days long gone.

  4. Ashley’s experience of two violent incidents is two too many but the evidence indicates it’s much more common than that in Byron Bay. ‘Last Drinks at 12’ is careful to work from the evidence of what happens in Byron. The crime statistics (BOCSAR), the direct experience of police, doctors, hospital outpatients staff and emergency services personnel paints a different picture. Young people are regularly and often seriously hurt because of alcohol-related violence. Yet this is a preventable problem. The combination of the oversupply of alcohol in the early hours of the morning and the lack of enforceable, effective deterrents underpins the violence. Why are people getting to levels of drunkeness where they are literally out of control? If we know that rates of violence can be significantly reduced by a modest reduction in trading hours at a handful of venues then surely that’s worth pursuing. Nobody is suggesting Prohibition. Young people are entitled to have fun but we seem to have lost the balance between that fun and the right of the community to a safe, peaceful environment. Byron Bay’s profile as a great locality to live and visit surely rests on more than as a place to get so drunk you become a danger to yourself and others.

  5. It is good to see that people are starting to take notice and become involved in the alcohol problem .I was on the forum panel at the community meeting right from the start and the biggest gripe was the alcohol violence so we started as a group called “12”. It was a bit daunting to stand up and voice our opinion against what we knew would be a difficult and sometimes nasty subject,but someone had to do it.
    I was born and have lived here since 1964, donating my time and money to local clubs,events and until 2 years ago the Site Director for the Byron Bay Triathlon,an event that now attracts 1700 competitors.
    Having watched Byron Bay grow from a sand mining and meat works town to now being a mecca for tourists and young people I have also seen the changes in behaviour .I was a drinking and partying person back thru the 80s,90s and early 2000s but we knew the boundaries for alcohol consumption and violence did not seem to be an issue.These days it seems to be the main intention to go out and drink to excess for as many hours as possible without thinking about the consequences to not only themselves but to society ie hospital staff,ambulance ,police and other people just trying to enjoy a night out.
    Do we sit around and let the government try to solve it (unlikely) or do we as a community try to solve it (and get abused along the way)? I chose to stand up and try to tackle the issue in the hope that people would wake up and say “yes” we have a problem and “yes I want to be part of solving it”.
    If you have ideas and information that you think may help our beautiful town of Byron Bay then please send an email to Last Drinks at 12 (google search the website) or send a letter to PO Box 529 Byron Bay 2481. We all need to work together for a solution and it will be a bitter and bumpy road .
    I love this town and I hope my parents who first moved here in 1939 can also remain loving this town ,but it is getting an ugly reputation.As I travel around this country other tourists ask about the “alcohol violence ” that shows up in the media,this needs to change.

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