Group joins fight for Byron
CONCERNED that widely published reports of alcohol-fuelled violence at Byron Bay is keeping tourists away, a new action group of residents and businesses is asking for a "seat at the table" to tackle the issue.
Born-and-bred Byron businessman Geoff Bensley said the group of about 100 residents and business people, known as "12" came out of community meetings following the town's troubled New Year's Eve. The group wanted to help restore Byron's laidback reputation tarnished by binge drinkers.
"A lot of people are concerned that they don't know what is happening as far as the Byron Liquor Accord is concerned and the initiatives they are bringing in to try and curb the alcohol issues we are having," he said.
"We decided that we needed to have a voice, so the community could be heard by all the alcohol establishments.
"We want to get Byron back on track to attract visitors."
Mr Bensley said 12 was concerned that membership to the Liquor Accord, and its guidelines, were voluntary and not legally enforceable.
"We want it enforceable so venues have to follow the guidelines and all outlets that sell alcohol has to be part of the accord," he said.
Mr Bensley said many of the guidelines were poorly defined, such as what constituted a "shot". At the moment, if the drink is topped with an energy drink it is not a shot, he said.
Yet far from lobbing grenades at the Byron Liquor Accord, Mr Bensley said 12 would like to work with it to resolve the problem.
"We are here to help them," he said.
"At the moment we don't know what is going on, but if they do the right thing we want to broadcast it, but if they step out of line and are not fulfilling their own guidelines, we will be there to pull them back in.
"Over the last few months all the media reports about Byron has been negative (because of the alcohol) and we want to get back to positive coverage," Mr Bensley said.
He added that the fall in tourism was adversely affecting many non-alcohol-related businesses.