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Hotels to fight for licensing changes

WA’S hotels have placed extended trading hours at the top of their wish list as they move to resist being squeezed at both ends of the market.

Faced with licence restrictions forcing them to close at 1pm, while a wave of special facility licences have created a number of psuedo-hotels competing for casual drinkers and even for packaged liquor, the industry is understood to be lobbying hard for change.

The liquor industry has already won concessions, with the Liquor Licensing Act Amendment Bill making its way through State Parliament to place restrictions on the granting of special facility licences.

However, that move has not stopped the seeming contradiction in hotels, including the Subiaco Hotel, owned by Australian Hotels Association WA president Michael Monaghan, which applied for special facility licences to get around existing restrictions on its trading hours.

AHA WA executive director Bradley Woods said the special facility licence argument was split in two.

Firstly, Mr Woods said there was a legitimate cause for special facilities licences for hotels operating in tourism or hospitality precincts where they competed with other providers operating longer hours away from residential areas.

In contrast to that, he said the industry was opposed to restaurants and other competitors using the licence as a backdoor entry into the hotels’ market.

Mr Woods would not comment on industry talk that the issue of extended licences had become the association’s immediate priority, with the issue of poker machines being put on the back burner.

But he said hotels needed some certainty before they could reinvest in their own operations.

There are several examples where this issue has become a hot potato, including at least two legal challenges by WA hotels against extended trading restrictions, the Subiaco Hotel’s application and a recent application by Indiana Tea House.

Indiana Tea House lawyer Ashley Wilson, of Frichot & Frichot, said the restaurant had applied for a licence to serve alcohol without food and for the ability the sell packaged liquor, namely special single-bottle wine souvenir packs.

Mr Wilson said the restaurant would not be serving beachgoers who wanted to consume alcohol on the beach, an occurrence which had attracted much publicity of late.

Sources close to the Subiaco Hotel said the owners had waited three years for rule changes and had grown impatient as late-night competition increased around them.

Plans for a $400,000 upstairs late night bar development had been put on hold until a permanent late-night licence could be obtained.

Both the AHA and the WA branch of the Liquor Stores Association have raised the issue of trading hours in their submissions to the WA Office of Racing Gaming and Liquor in response to the National Competition Policy concerns. Both want extended trading options but are generally opposed to wholesale deregulation.

The LSA’s biggest beef is restrictions on its members’ ability to trade on Sundays.

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