Plans for a Byron Bay liquor accord precinct will be explored after Byron Shire Council voted unanimously in favour at Thursday’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.
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 rate of incidents in Byron Bay compared to other areas. However the town’s liquor accord chairperson Hannah Spalding says that the industry’s 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.’
But despite the vote being unanimous, opinions were divided during debate. Cr Sol Ibrahim acknowledged problems, but objected, ‘to the way it’s being addressed’.
‘When there are risks, we weigh them up. I don’t see the Last Drinks at 12 people representing the people affected – they are not out at these times. I go out late at night and have not been at risk. It’s a simplistic view. I want to drink after midnight… We need more police presence and compliance by licensees.’
And 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.’
However mayor Simon 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.’
In morning public access at Thursday’s meeting, Last Drinks at 12 representatives asked Council to support the group’s aims, saying their evidence suggests that for every hour earlier a venue ceases the serving of alcohol, physical assaults decrease by approximately 17 per cent.