It could be weeks before Byron Bay Liquor Accord chair Hannah Spalding knows whether the venues found to be in breach of trading conditions by the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) earlier this month are members of her Accord.
The OLGR blitzed Byron Bay venues over the October long weekend, announcing it had identified ten breaches in a total of five venues over the period.
But, Ms Spalding says, it has yet to determine whether to take action over the infractions.
One thing she can say with certainty is that OLGR have told her they are ‘not for breaches of our voluntary conditions, such as no doubles, no shots, no jugs.’
Nor were they for breaching the voluntary 1.30am lockout time for late-night venues, she added.
What that means, though, is that they are potentially far more serious breaches of the venue’s own licence conditions or of the liquor act itself.
‘I have spoken to OLGR and they advise they don’t usually release [the names of the venues] until they have finalised whether it will be a [formal] breach or not and they advise that they are still working with the licensees on the final outcome of the detected breaches,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘It is a process they go through with the individual licensees – it has nothing to do with the Accord,’ she said.
‘While they were here on the weekend, they did advise us that all Accord terms were being followed and that any of the incidences that they detected had to do with licence conditions or NSW liquor legislation,’ she added.
Ms Spalding agreed it was ‘definitely’ a disappointing outcome for the town’s venues, while adding ‘it’s hard to know… while they are still going through the process, whether that stays at ten [infringements].’
‘In general in Byron Bay, OLGR is still seeing violence trending down,’ she said.
Assaults double state average
But while this may be the case, according to a report released by OLGR in May this year, the percentage of non-domestic assaults in the town that are alcohol-related remains stubbornly high.
In 2009, when the figures first began, 88 per cent of the town’s non-domestic assaults were deemed to be alcohol related, against a state average of 45 per cent.
While that figure reduced to about 79 per cent in 2014, the state average dropped to less than 38 per cent over the same period.
And while the report said there was ‘a general perception among key stakeholders that public safety in Byron Bay had improved’ over the period, implementation of the action plan had been ‘incomplete and staggered’.
It concluded that while membership of the Accord should remain voluntary, ‘regulatory intervention should be considered for any high risk venue that fails to adhere to the current accord terms.’
Ms Spalding said that membership of the Accord had not shown much growth in recent times, adding OLGR said this was ‘fairly typical, when you already have most of the large, late-night venues on board.’
She added that OLGR’s decision to charge new licence fees ‘adds to the other costs, especially of smaller licensed premises.’
Ms Spalding said it was ‘not really [the Accord’s] place to take action’ against recalcitrant venues, ‘where it comes to a breach of licence.’
‘The Liquor Accord’s function is to try and increase safety and promote positive changes within the alcohol industry in the local area above and beyond legislation.
‘If these people have breached their liquor licence conditions or NSW legislation then appropriate action will be taken by OLGR… all we can do as an Accord is to continue to push people to be members.’
Echonetdaily’s repeated requests for comment from OLGR have yet to receive a response.