NSW Liquor & Gaming has released its latest list of the State’s so-called Violent Venues, defending the scheme’s vilification of venues, and contradicting Sydney LAC and sitting MPs.
The intent of the Liquor & Gaming Violent Venues scheme is to “regulate licensed premises with high levels of assaults and other violent incidents”. The scheme produces a list twice per year, naming any venue that has experienced 12 or more incidents in the 12-month reporting period.
The latest list flagged Merivale’s ivy as the only venue in the most restrictive, Level 1 category, which brings a dossier of restrictions on the venue and greatly increased scrutiny by licensing inspectors. Fourteen venues will see Level 2 restrictions, up from eight, and three venues fell below the threshold and were removed.
But despite years of calls for the list to take into account patronage numbers, the NSW regulator continues to compare apples with oranges, out-of-step with BOCSAR, the Bureau that provides the crime data for the Violent Venues list.
Ivy sees a staggering 2,000,000 patrons through its doors each year – more than the Sydney Cricket Ground, and on par with The Star casino.
The 36 incidents it has recorded against it represent 1.8 incidents per 100,000 people. BOCSAR’s own data shows Sydney LGA records 1,647 incidents per 100,000 people (in the same category of non-domestic assault) – 91,000 per cent that of ivy, the busiest hotel in Australia.
PubTIC asked BOCSAR why the list is measured without considering patronage.
“We analyse the frequency of assault in Sydney CBD and Kings Cross rather than the assault rate because we don’t have patronage data for any licensed premises in these areas or a reliable count of pedestrian traffic in and around every licensed venue in these areas,” replied Dr Weatherburn.
But Liquor & Gaming are privy to patron rates, particularly with venues already under scrutiny, such as the recent ILGA review process applied to ivy.
Since entering the damning list, ivy has taken extensive systemic changes to address the issue, rostering over 30 per cent more staff than mandated during busy periods and conducting weekly meetings with regulators.
The Merivale group conveys a zero-tolerance approach to violence and behavioural issues across its 60+ licensed operations, reporting $2.7m annual spend on security and risk mitigation.
For the past year, Merivale has been working with NSW Police Commander for Drug & Alcohol Coordination, Patrick Paroz, which included a full review of its massive security and management systems.
“Merivale has the most advanced operational plans of management, training and reporting systems that I have come across,” says Paroz. “ivy is a vast complex with thousands of visitors on any given night. For that volume of customers, the number of alcohol related incidents is on any comparison well managed. They and I would like that to be zero and we are working on it.”
Paroz’s conclusions are backed by those of Sydney City LAC Superintendent David Donahue, who when speaking of the similarly populated Star casino last November suggested that “the number of incidents at the Casino need to be understood in the context of the sheer size of the venue”.
Furthermore, even Barry O’Farrell, the instigator of Sydney’s cursed lockout scheme, thought the one-size-fits-all principle was flawed, way back in 2010.
“How can you possibly compare venues such as Penrith Panthers with small suburban pubs?” asked then NSW Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell.
“It makes no sense treating a venue with one million people a year coming through its doors the same as one with ten thousand.”
Also in 2010, and also at the time in Opposition, now Member for Tweed, The Nationals’ Geoff Provest, wanted rid of the Violent Venues scheme altogether.
“This Government has implemented a rigid [Violent Venues] scheme that does not differentiate between large and small venues. We do not need this rigid, one size fits all scheme.
“The Government should consult with the industry,” said Provest.
PubTIC asked Liquor & Gaming why it created the list, using BOCSAR crime data, without considering people through the venues.
“The primary consideration for categorising venues is the total number of violent incidents, and venue size is not a factor,” a spokesperson reported back.
“Larger venues have a responsibility to put in place sufficient safety measures to cater for higher patronage levels.”
While the system appears destined to continue to reflect numbers of assaults, ignoring its own mandate to address “levels of assaults”, at least patrons in ivy can rest easy that they are 915 times safer inside its doors than on the street.
Venue Suburb No. Incidents
Ivy Sydney 36
Venue Suburb No. Incidents
Home Nightclub Sydney 17
PJ’S Irish Pub Parramatta 16
Sydney Junction Hotel Hamilton 16
Sunken Monkey Hotel Erina 16
The Eastern Bondi Junction 14
The Grand Hotel Wollongong 14
Northies Cronulla 13
Pontoon Bar Sydney 13
Pyrmont Bridge Hotel Pyrmont 13
Coffs Harbour Hotel Coffs Harbour 12
Hotel Orange Orange 12
Narellan Hotel Narellan 12
The Coast Hotel Coffs Harbour 12
The Mill Hotel Milperra 12