Calls for the liberalisation of liquor licensing laws have been heeded by the state government which this week announced sweeping changes to way alcohol can be sold in Western Australia.The government has adopted most of the key recommendations of a review headed by former banker Jim Freemantle, allowing WA to catch up with other states.This included allowing restaurants to apply for a licence to sell liquor without serving a meal, replacing the public needs test with a public interest test and allowing bottle shops to trade on Sundays in the metropolitan area..Another key change will be the abolition of the liquor licensing court, to be replaced by a commission.In addition, racing and gaming minister Mark McGowan said the government was adding a new concept, that of a small bar license that provided for outlets catering for up to 100 people."That will help encourage more of those smaller bars that we see in places like Melbourne," he told WA Business News.Premier Alan Carpenter reiterated this point at joint press conference with Mr McGowan today to announce the changes, pointing to Melbourne's bar culture rather than WA's focus on the beer barn"Western Australia has been in need of reform in this area for a long time," Mr Carpenter said."Ordinary people that want to have a glass of wine in a restaurant or go to a small bar, not a big pub, will now be able to do it."He said to balance the liberalisation, authorities and police will have greater powers to control problem drinkers and difficult situations.Mr Carpenter expected to have the new laws in force next year.The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the change as "sensible and timely".A spokesman said the changes brought liquor laws up-to-date with community lifestyles with a balanced and responsible policy change.Numerous other industry groups from the hospitality to tourism have previously backed the review's recommendations, though the Australian Hotels Association has been cautious prior to today, suggesting that its members may require compensation if stripped of their regulated competitive advantage.Valentinos Restaurant proprietor Rob Smales said the existing laws are anti-competitive and meant restaurants always lost because."It's been difficult for restaurant owners for a long time, we've had to regulate ourselves," Mr Smales said."I think it will change the culture of our city.".
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