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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Fact: Byron Bay has a grog problem

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My dog died. I haven’t been able to write about it until now. It was a month ago, and he was old, but it was still unexpected, and it leaves you feeling a bit raw.

When did the name Byron Bay get branded as a world famous party town? Sure it is world famous but for a lot more reasons than simply being a party town.

And is this an argument to justify becoming one of the most violent towns in NSW?

There is a broad spectrum of residents who live here. And living in such a small community with such divergent views only highlights the need for well-informed and intelligent debate in formulating policies around which we can all live.

The first step in developing good policy is to acknowledge and agree that there is an actual problem.

The fact that Byron is ranked sixth for alcohol-related non-domestic assault, fourth for disorderly conduct and second for liquor offences in NSW tells us that Byron has a problem.

These are actual cases. We as residents have to deal with this. Our businesses have to deal with this.

The scarce resources we do have in the police, nurses, doctors and paramedics who have to deal with these cases, day in day out.

The pressure and stress this places on our community as a whole has to be balanced against this perceived ‘right’ to party.

Assuming the problem of alcohol-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour is accepted (these are police statistics) then the first step surely is to identify and prioritise potential solutions.

If you read the research papers and studies on this and compile a short list, the single most effective proven measure is to modestly reduce trading hours of those venues that supply alcohol.

To trial other such measures that have not proven effective elsewhere is simply not stepping up to address the problem.

Byron offers a lot more than the hundreds of other family-oriented holiday towns referred to.

It was world famous well before extended trading hours beyond 12am were granted.

Even the mayor acknowledges that from a tourism perspective these proposed measures would be positive for the broader local economy.

The other additional measures proposed by Last Drinks at 12 have also been the subject to the same review.

They are the same additional measures proposed by both the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the NSW ACT Alcohol Policy Alliance (NAAPA).

Stephen Eakin, Byron Bay


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7 COMMENTS

  1. It may have developed a reputation as a party town a few years ago, but it’s now getting the negative reputation of being a dangerous thug-ridden town, especially at night and at weekends. Personally I know a Scandinavian family who will not allow their teenagers to come here for their gap year. It’s not just Byron, it’s Australian cities generally that are getting the reputation of being run by thugs.

  2. It must be remembered that only 25% of alcohol related incidents are actually reported to Police.

    For some young regular local partiers who suggest they have never seen a violent alcohol related incident in Byron on a Friday, Saturday night after midnight, simply defies reasonable belief.

    Perhaps they are employed by one of the 6 late trading pubs or clubs?

    Word just received from the Newcastle CDAT conference today (16/9) addressing how to effectively prevent alcohol related harms conclusively demonstrated that Newcastle’s modest reduction in late trading has sustained over a 5 year period a remarkable 33% reduction in assaults and comparing March 2008 (month of introduction) with March 2013 – a greater than 50% reduction.

    But there is more that proves a salient lesson for our Mayor, OLGR and premises alike.

    82% of the Newcastle community support the reduction in hours

    Over 50% of younger patrons now themselves support the earlier closing and,

    The viability of the night time business economy has actually improved over 5 years with more licensed premises (not late trading binge barns) and more money being spent by customers.

  3. The government fought and won the battle against the tobacco companies selling those deadly cancer sticks but doesn’t seem interested in saving lives from the deadly alcohol curse.A big thanks should go to the Bottle Shops in Byron Bay that don’t sell those terrible high energy drinks,they are just plain dangerous when mixed with alcohol.It would be good if other liquor establishments in town stopped selling these energy drinks ,it may cut down on the alcohol fuelled violence.

  4. It’s a shame that so much misinformation and misrepresentation of statistics is being presented as “fact” by individuals (like Mr. Eakin) and groups with regards to alcohol-related violence in Byron Bay.

    The “fact” rankings quoted by Mr. Eakin disregards the 1.4 millions visitors to Byron Bay each year & is calculated on a per 100,000 basis for Byron Shires 32,000 residents.

    If you look at the actual number of alcohol-related non-domestic assaults, Byron is ranked 12th in the state and had less than half of the 546 assaults in much-hyped Newcastle.

    The “fact” is that alcohol-related assaults in Byron have actually DECREASED by 12% from March 2012 to March 2013, and have remained stable for the past 5 years. Furthermore, the initiatives implemented by the Byron Bay Liquor Accord have shown preliminary results of a further 20% decrease in assaults over the past 6 months compared to the same period last year.

    Furthermore, the “modest” reduction of trading hours in Newcastle were actually changing the closing hours from 5am to 3am. Byron Bay ALREADY has 3am closing for all late-night venues, plus a 1.30am lock-out AND the strictest drink restrictions in the entire state!

    There are nearly 550,000 visitors to Byron Bay each year between the ages of 15-34, spending an estimated $176.8 million. Are people naive enough to think that young people will still come to Byron in the same numbers and spend the same amount of money if they have to be in bed by midnight? Even an 10% reduction would result in $17.6 million less spent in our hostels, restaurants, surf schools and retail shops. Is this not going to have an impact on our businesses?

    The problem is not in late-night venues, it is on the streets. Pushing everyone out of secure and regulated premises onto the streets, beaches and suburbs without improvements in street lighting, late-night transportation and police foot patrols is going create chaos in the streets!

  5. The small reduction in late trading hours in Newcastle after 5 years has actually been better for business, the community and police by creating a much more diverse, safe and sustainable night economy not reliant upon and dominated by the late trading binge barns that deter many other responsible businesses.

    Research released on 16 September 2013 at the Newcastle CDAT also showed more licensed premises (restaurants, small bars etc) than 5 years ago with an internationally unprecedented sustained 33% plummet in alcohol non domestic related violence preventing between 2,500 and 3,000 young people in Newcastle being assaulted in the premises and on their streets.

    The reduced hours also have 82% community support and the majority of younger patrons support

    So Brian the choice is really clear

  6. Again individuals like Christie are misrepresenting information to suit their message.

    As I noted in my previous submission, the changes in trading hours in Newcastle were from a 5am closing to a 3am closing (as is ALREADY the case in Byron), which is significantly different from the proposed changes for the closing hours in Byron Bay from 3am to 12am.

    Therefore the “late trading binge barns”, as have been so eloquently described, still exist and are still trading in Newcastle until 3am. Presumably they are also part of “the diverse, safe and sustainable night economy”.

    Trying to compare solutions for Byron Bay, a small-town international tourist destination, with Newcastle, a large-working class city, is like comparing apples to oranges…they are both still fruit, but very much different.

    Furthermore, trying to apply statistics for reductions in assaults in a different city, with different changes in trading hours is again misrepresenting information to suit one’s message.

    Newcastle should be applauded for their achievements, but it still remains the 2nd most violent Local Government Area (LGA) in NSW.

    So Christie the choice really ISN’T CLEAR, because alcohol-related violence is a complex and multi-faceted issue that is not solved by a “one size fits all solution”.

  7. Brian, visitors will still come to Byron Bay if the bars close a few hours earlier. Tourists will adapt to the local customs here. In fact, research shows that our night time economy can actually improve and more jobs created with earlier closing. The clubs of course will need to have time to change their business models, and for sure we wont get the tourists who come purely to drink til 3am. Safer town, less strain on our police and emergency workers, vibrant night life economy. It’s a no brainer to me.

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