NSW parliament has today announced major changes to licence legislation, including an overhaul of the notorious 3 Strikes scheme that will see existing strikes revoked and future Strikes on the licensee.
Minister for Racing Paul Toole announced late today the passing of legislation furthering his commitment to reinvigorating vibrancy in Sydney’s entertainment precincts.
Arthur Laundy, who received a Strike at The Steyne last year when three underage girls were caught on the premises, has been lobbying for changes to the system for three years, and told PubTIC the changes unveiled today have gotten it right.
The Minister acknowledges that some measures already in place, such as the 3 Strikes scheme and Sydney CBD and Kings Cross licence freeze, have had “unintended consequences”.
The mandatory application of a first Strike for a range of given offenses meant all venues received the same blanket sanction, irrespective of the seriousness or circumstances of the breach. The legislation passed today will see future Strikes considered on a case-by-case basis by the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA), which can weigh the evidence accordingly.
Furthermore, the Strike will now be placed on the responsible licensee, rather than the venue, eliminating the curse of conditions continuing to impact the business even when the operator has moved on.
And, ILGA will review Strikes after six months and either confirm or revoke them, based on response to remedial measures and lack of further incidents, in an effort to encourage licensees to take proactive steps to improve practises and operate responsibly.
The new system will ensure better targeting of liquor laws, eliminating Strikes for minor breaches, such as a Kings Cross venue failing to remove litter from the footpath, while punishing serious offenses, such as permitting intoxication or violence, selling to minors, or breaking serious precinct conditions.
A spokesperson at the Minister’s office confirmed to PubTIC that in order to ensure a straightforward transition, all existing Strikes will be revoked on commencement of the new scheme.
However, any remedial action or conditions already in place due to an existing Strike will continue to apply. These measures can only be removed or varied with an application by the licensee to the Authority.
“We have a situation where underage people go on to premises – often with fake ID – put hotel keepers and now licensees at serious risk, and get a slap on the wrist,” explains Laundy.
“I didn’t want those girls on my premises, I’ve got signs everywhere saying they can’t come in. They know they’re not welcome. If they still insist, there should be a penalty. If they break the road rules they lose their drivers licence, but nothing in the pub game.
“If Government is serious about stopping underage, they should get serious about penalising people who know they’re committing wrong.”
The new laws follow government’s half-hour relaxation of Sydney’s crushing ‘lockout’ curfew to eligible live music venues, and 1-hour extension to the 10pm closure of bottleshops also implemented in 2014.
As well as the changes to Strikes, the liquor licence freeze in Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross will also be “modified”, furthering Toole’s mandate of safety with diversity.
“The [Strikes] scheme has unfairly penalised new owners and operators who have been unable to remove Strikes incurred by previous management. By attaching the Strike to the licensee rather than the venue, responsible operators won’t be penalised for the poor practises of previous management.
“The new arrangements mean businesses will have more flexibility to refurbish their premises, change their offerings and attract new customers.
“We are committed to ensuring the community can enjoy safe nights out while also encouraging more diverse and vibrant entertainment options.”