25/06/2013 - 14:59

Record nod for bars in CBD despite concern

25/06/2013 - 14:59


Save articles for future reference.
Record nod for bars in CBD despite concern
BUILDING BUSINESS: Mike de Vos is one of a growing number of small bar owners in the CBD. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

Liquor licence applications for central-Perth venues are being approved at a record rate despite continuing resistance from the police service and health department.

More liquor licence applications for premises in the CBD have been approved in the first six months of this year (eight) than during the whole of 2012 (six).

Five of the eight approvals are for new venues, including three small bars; the remainder are for extended trading hours or tavern licences.

In 2012, Bar Lafayette in Brookfield Place was the only small bar licence approved.

This year’s figures are double those of 2011 when four applications were given the green light: The Terrace Hotel; The Heritage; The Mechanic’s Institute; and The Aviary.

The applications have been approved by the director of liquor licensing despite the commissioner of police lodging interventions citing a lack of demand, the potential for alcohol-fuelled disturbances, and adverse impacts on public health as key concerns.

In one of the most recent decisions – an application for a small bar named Choo Choo's in Brookfield Place – the commissioner claimed existing alcohol-related offending in the city should dissuade the director of liquor licensing from approving the application, as there were already plenty of drinking venues satisfying demand.

But the director approved the application, stating the development of Brookfield Place was integral to the state’s aim of enlivening the CBD, and Choo Choos would assist in that goal.

The police commissioner also submitted crime statistics, which the director said were not representative of the Brookfield Place vicinity.

“I am not convinced that the area adjacent to the subject premises currently experiences the same level of harm, nor do I consider that the premises or its patrons based on the style of trade proposed, will significantly contribute to this harm in the future,” the director stated.

Co-owner of Choo Choos, Mike de Vos, told Business News the commissioner’s intervention was effectively a carbon copy of others lodged against most liquor licensing applications.

“It’s stock-standard; they just don’t want other venues opening and it’s our onus to prove that we’re not going to be a hazard,” Mr de Vos said.

“I understand where they’re coming from; they’ve got a job to do to protect the public, but at the same time I think if you oppose everything that’s going to open without any idea of the way it’s going to be done, then that’s very close-minded.”

Lavan Legal emeritus partner Dan Mossenson agreed the commissioner of police lodged concerns on most applications, which resulted in an increase in the time and cost for applicants.

“It’s not my job to criticise the commissioner of police, [but] it’s my job to represent applicants and that’s made easier by the lacking quality of the interventions,” Mr Mossenson said.

In addition, a tavern licence has been approved for a new venue to be named No Black Tie, despite both the commissioner of police and executive director of public health cautioning against potential problems if the Murray Street venture went ahead.

Again, the police argued the area suffered from high levels of alcohol-related crime and would-be patrons already had plenty of other venues to choose from.

In his decision, the commissioner stated that the jazz music on offer would appeal to a different niche and would not attract the rowdy crowds similar to those that frequent larger venues operating under a tavern licence.

The director has also rebutted concerns about converting the licence of successful small bar Greenhouse on St Georges Terrace to a tavern licence.

In response to questions from Business News, the police commissioner’s office defended the interventions, and said concerns were not lodged against every application.

When it came to the increasing popularity of small bars, however, the response was critical of arguments that small bars were a safer than larger venues.

“Small bars are continually promoted as safe environments and a vehicle to reduce alcohol-related harm, yet there is no research or data to validate this suggestion,” a spokesperson said.

“On the contrary, research has clearly established that increasing the availability of or the access to alcohol goes hand in glove with increasing alcohol related harm.”



Subscription Options