Campaigners for tougher alcohol-sales restrictions in Byron Bay have called for the town’s voluntary liquor accord to be abolished and replaced by tighter conditions that all venues would be required to abide by.
The Last Drinks at 12 campaign, which has lobbied with NSW Police for the precinct accords to combat rising alcohol-fuelled violence, has asked the state government to immediately establish a precinct liquor accord (PLA) for the town and says it wants to be involved in the process.
Emergency specialist Dr Blake Eddington and spokesman for Last Drinks at 12 says it’s vital the precinct accord be set up before the oncoming summer holiday period, during which drinking and violence in the town escalates.
Dr Eddington has again written to the Department of Trade and Investment’s director-general Mark Paterson over the issue, saying the expected escalation of booze-fuelled violence over the holidays will take a high toll on health and policing costs.
‘We believe that these health and police resources could be more productively and constructively deployed elsewhere; for example, reduce extensive hospital waiting times, improved facilities and greater proactive community policing and crime prevention tasking,’ Dr Eddington said.
‘ We welcome recent correspondence from Minister (George) Souris suggesting that our group would be included in the PLA,’ he said.
‘We believe such an organisation with its mandatory membership of licensed premises and immediately enforceable additional conditions is warranted by the ongoing levels of alcohol-related harms and unacceptable levels of noncompliance by some licensed premises.
‘Our group would appreciate inclusion on PLA on the basis of:
‘1. The existing BBLA (Byron Bay Liquor Accord) constitution be immediately abolished as it renders community members such as ourselves an inferior “spectator” status. The community should be afforded the same degree of input and voting rights (if not higher) than the handful of licensed premises who continue to look after their own interests to the detriment of Byron Bay’s increasingly fragile international tourism reputation as a safe and inviting paradise for all to responsibly enjoy regardless of the time of day or night.
‘ 2. The PLA recognises and endorse an independent evidence-based approach for the immediate adoption and independently evaluated trial of a reduction in the supply and service of alcohol back to midnight (or an agreed meaningful alternative) and a package of other effective supply, promotion and RSA practices that address the interdependent alcohol supply and service chain. We consider the OLGR proposed half-hour reduction in the late provision of alcohol to be tokenistic and completely inadequate.
‘ 3. The PLA immediately include known feeder problematic premises such as the Beach Hotel (trades till 12.30am), Cheeky Monkey’s, Woody’s, and Cocomangas (all 3am) that disproportionately contribute to high levels of alcohol-related incidents reflected in the police’s linking data obtained under GIPAA.
‘4. The PLA tackle the significant problem of dangerous preloading recognised as a major predictor of consequential alcohol-fuelled violence and harms. This will involve much more effective controls on the availability, timing, supply, promotion and strength of heavily discounted take-away alcohol.
‘5. OLGR lends the community the same level of financial and other support it gives to the licensed premises.
‘ 6. The PLA immediately resolves to recover from the licensees and related financial interests, the true public costs of the high level of health and enforcements resources associated with responding to the premises’ operations and the conduct of their patrons.
‘ 7. The PLA act on our above requirements immediately to avoid the necessity of the possible deployment of a substantial number of additional police and the riot squad in our town over the New Years Eve period. This above possible application of scarce police resources alone provides sufficient evidence justifying the immediate instigation of a PLA along the lines we have respectfully outlined above. We note however, a PLA can only be effective as the compulsory licence conditions it imposes on all its licensed members. We would be pleased to discuss this and the community’s preferred package of harm-prevention cost-saving measures with you further. We, however, recognise it is now time for decisive, meaningful, independent evidence-based harm-prevention action by the NSW government on behalf of the whole community. Action must substitute continued talk and pontificating, more committees and ongoing noncompliance and low regard for community safety, quiet and good order by a handful of licensees and their dependent followers if we are to avoid a repeat of intolerable levels of alcohol-related violence and related harms, disturbances and community fear and displacement,’ Dr Eddington concluded.
But the Byron Bay Liquor Accord (BBLA) says it has already put some of the strongest restrictions on its members that any licensed premises has in the state, voluntarily implemented by the local licensees.