Call for revised liquor licensing laws in Newcastle

23 Jan 2018

Licensed venues in Newcastle's CBD with a proven record of consistent exemplary behaviour would be exempt from some licensing conditions under Newcastle City Council recommendations to the NSW Government's review of local liquor licences.

Council's submission, endorsed unanimously tonight at an extraordinary Council meeting, contains 17 recommendations.

Some relate to existing conditions, while others call for new conditions and fresh research into the effectiveness of lock-out laws introduced in the Newcastle CBD almost ten years ago.

The submission was developed by a Council team including NCC Smart City Coordinator Dr Nathaniel Bavinton, whose PhD in urban sociology focused on the night-time economy of Newcastle.

The submission supports a consistent 1.30am lock-out and 3.30am shutdown for all premises, except those designated as low impact.

Dr Bavinton said central to the submission was a proposal to include additional classifications for premises that achieved and maintained "low impact" status.

"Importantly, we need laws that incentivise licenced venues to strive to make our CBD safer," Dr Bavinton said.

"It's Council's view that venues who consistently demonstrate outstanding responsible service of alcohol should be allowed to trade longer than those that occasionally don't."

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Newcastle had changed significantly since 2008.

"Our night-time economy is now worth $1.4 billion a year and employs more than 12,000 people," Councillor Nelmes said.

"We need laws that reflect the evolution of that night-time economy, which has been led by strong growth in smaller night-time venues attracting a more sophisticated, responsible crowd.

"This is about achieving a balance between controlling alcohol-related incidents and stimulating the kind of city life after-dark that attracts broader participation and investment in Newcastle."

Under Council's submission, low-impact venues would be defined as those with a strong, consistent focus on noise management and responsible service of alcohol, and a proven track record on alcohol-related and liquor licensing incidents.

"We need to be able to reward venues that consistently demonstrate sound and effective alcohol-related management policies and practices," Dr Bavinton added.

"The aim of our night-time economy strategy is to create a more diverse range of venues later into the night."

Liquor licence trading hours - including existing lock-out and shutdown laws - are determined by Liquor & Gaming NSW.

Council determines when premises can operate in its development approval for each site.

Currently, licensed venues in Newcastle have varying lock-out times of 1am-1.30am and shutdown times of 3am-3.30am.

Other recommendations outlined in the submission include:

* Requiring licensed venues to prepare more robust plans of management and to be more closely scrutinised by Liquor & Gaming NSW. The plans of management would be tied to annual compliance audits.

* Requiring licensed venues to retain an employee whose sole function is to supervise responsible service of alcohol throughout the premises.

* Undertaking new research into how licensing conditions under the current lock-out laws affect specific venues and liquor licence categories.

Dr Bavinton said the recommended measures would ensure Newcastle lived up to its potential to be a safe yet attractive after-dark destination.

"Our night-time economy will be a key contributor to the city's ongoing revitalisation, so we need to get these measures right," he said.