Extended drinking hours threat

With the Australian and New Zealand governments issuing a crackdown on alcohol and anti- social behaviour last weekend it’s time to look closer to home to see what’s happening in Byron Shire and, in particular, Byron Bay.

 Changes to licensing last year has seen the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing providing a new approval system that appears willing to go against local government and police submissions that raise concerns and grant extended trading hours.

In Byron Bay there are a number of applications to extend trading hours of nightclubs, including Sunday nights. The consequences of 4am trading in Byron Bay could dramatically change the focus of the town and strengthen the identification as a party town.

With the extended trading hours it could mean all-night partying and then patrons on the streets after 4am with no need for accommodation but able to wander the town until daylight.

It’s essential to consider how a change in the liquor licensing would impact on the community and the character and safety of the area .

It would also mean an additional work load for the police but would not necessarily mean additional police being allocated to the area and likely that it would place additional pressure on the hospital .

The existing late-night trading until 3am already raises community concerns with patrons heading out late and disrupting residents and then arriving back to premises after 3am.

Of great concern is the identity of Byron Bay if these licence applications are approved. Byron Bay deserves to be identified with being more than an alcohol-fuelled party town. Currently the town is unique in being a small coastal community with a high level of licensed venues.

There is already a strong focus on alcohol with three hotel licences and four nightclubs which deliver 146 hours of licensed alcohol trading per week out of 168 hours.

As a community we must consider the message this sends to young people and the example that is being set. Crime statistics already rank Byron Shire as high for assault, liquor offences, offensive conduct and stealing. 

 There is also a need to consider the type of tourism that the area attracts and the impact, there is always the risk of a focus that alienates other tourists and diminishes the family friendly nature of the town.

I will be writing to the Minister this week to raise concerns about the current licensing processes and the Local Government Association Executive has resolved as a result of the state conference to raise late night alcohol trading issues with the Minister’s office.

I was successful at an executive meeting in having the specific needs and concerns of regional communities included as a separate priority.

A concerted effort by the community to make submissions to the applications could make the difference and I encourage residents to take the time to view the applications and put forward their views.

Go to http://www.olgr.nsw.gov.au/application_noticeboard.asp

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