Pulse Radio on 17/7/12
NSW Hospitality Minister George Souris has suggested that the proliferation of small bars in Sydney has contibuted to problems in areas such as Kings Cross. In an interview about the death of teenager Thomas Kelly and the government's response to violence in Kings Cross, Mr Souris said small bars had "a lower level of surveillance, a lower level of supervision, a lower level of compliance. For some reason the bigger venues that also have gambling associated with them are better policed, better supervised than those smaller venues".
Laws enacted by the State Parliament in 2008 make it cheaper and quicker to set up small bars by slashing red tape and application fees, however the rules governing the establishment of small bars in Sydney will now be reviewed by the NSW government. Mr Souris said he was concerned about the impact of the "proliferation" of small bars clustered around Kings Cross following the change to the law.
"It was hoped by Clover Moore that those smaller venues would attract more passive people, nicer people drinking chardonnay and they would fill up these lovely lanes across the CBD," Mr Souris said. "Well, they filled up the lovely lanes in Kings Cross; they focused on where the obvious attraction was."
The proliferation of small bars was "one of the contributors" to the problem of alcohol-related violence in Kings Cross, he believed.
"Not entirely, but to some extent, that really has been a failure of policy - the proliferation of small licences in the concentrated way that they have occurred," Mr Souris said.
He also questioned whether a bar with a capacity of up to 120 - as is the case in the City of Sydney council area - should be categorised as small. "That's a large venue," he said. Asked if the government had plans to revisit the changes, Mr Souris replied: "We're not going to rewrite the Liquor Act, but we are looking at visiting all the aspects that are part of it ... including the small bars."
But a spokeswoman for Cr Moore questioned Mr Souris's reasoning, pointing out that just five of the 193 small bars in the City of Sydney area are adjacent to Kings Cross. Cr Moore, who will appear alongside Mr Souris at The Sydney Morning Herald's forum on Kings Cross at Sydney Town Hall tonight, recently defended a similar attack on small bars by former prime minister Paul Keating.
Mr Keating, who is a resident of neighbouring Potts Point, said small bars were being established just outside the area subject to a freeze on liquor licences in Kings Cross and other hot spots established by the state government in 2008, undermining its effect.
"Clover Moore says this is cosmopolitan, but the reality is these are more places where people can get a drink," Mr Keating said.
However, Cr Moore said the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research says that violence in licensed venues relates to factors including the quantity and type of alcohol sold, the level of adherence to responsible service of alcohol guidelines, trading hours and patron numbers and demographics.
"This means small bars have a chance at changing behaviour formed in the past by louder, noisier pubs with their more aggressive environment. It is much easier for a small bar manager to keep an eye on the amount of alcohol consumed by patrons in a smaller venue than in a large beer barn," she argued.
"The City's small bar policies have helped build a more civilised drinking culture and encouraged owners and operators to offer more than just alcohol, such as live music and good food".
Story from The Sydney Morning Herald.
What do you think? Are small bars the problem? Or is this just further scapegoating from the government? Let us know your thoughts.
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