In Trade Restriction by Clyde Mooney

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The troubled Hotel Orange found itself inexplicably back in the firing line this month over the sins of the previous operator, seeming to reflect a return to the struck-down days of Strikes on bricks and mortar.

The pub was operated for around a year by leaseholder Josh Meijer, who removed by the owner for extensive breaches, served time for commercial cultivation of cannabis and was banned in May 2017 from holding a liquor licence for 10 years by Liquor & Gaming.

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Freehold owners the Fabar family had considerable history in pub operations, and reluctantly resumed control in December 2016. There had been nine recorded incidents under the lessee, and during the implementation of a management program, another three incidents occurred in January and February of 2017.

This saw the pub enter the dubious ranks of the Violent Venues list. Complicating the relationship with authorities, the theft of all the CCTV equipment, reportedly by the former tenant, meant they were unable to comply with requests for footage on incidents in dispute.

But the effects of the plan of management became clear, all the CCTV system has been replaced, and the Hotel reports no incidents in the past year. Also, the Strike incurred was rescinded following L&G’s decision to address the long-standing complaint of the system, that the penalty being placed on the venue, rather than the operator, unfairly penalised innocent freehold owners.

However, the change in management and number of issues has not stopped Central West Police District (CWPD) from vilifying The Orange for sins of the past, with a successful application to the regulator bringing forth a new tranche of bad publicity for the owners.

Beginning 1 September, the pub must boost its CCTV coverage to show all areas inside and outside, ensure security and RSA marshals on Friday and Saturday nights and before public holidays, as well as notify police immediately in the event of an incident, preserve crime scenes, and keep an ongoing incident register.

Despite being by far the most regulated premise in the town, CWPD crime manager Bruce Grassick told the Central Western Daily the pub had progressed – “But not to the extent we were satisfied”.

PubTIC asked Liquor & Gaming why the further restrictions were deemed necessary, with a spokesperson responding:

“The conditions have been imposed due to evidence from police that shows the hotel’s management failed to properly address issues of intoxication, violence and anti-social behaviour at and near the hotel over a 12-month period.

“While the licensee agreed to conditions being imposed on the hotel’s licence relating to crime scene preservation, CCTV, an incident register and a plan of management, he did not consent to conditions for security and an RSA marshal.

“The evidence provided by police was persuasive and the conditions were considered necessary to reduce ongoing risks of alcohol related harms.”

Further enquiry established that the “12-month period” was taken as being April 2016 to March 2017 – counting the establishment period for the resumed management, and no longer deemed relevant even to the Violent Venues scheme.

Mick Fabar and family are currently looking to divest the asset, and have been hit with another round of local headlines delivering a message from authorities about ‘curbing violence’ at the pub.

“The way the system works and the way it is reviewed really exposes owners to high risk, when you have a bad tenant,” laments Fabar.

“The police understand the situation but it’s an easy win for them and they make it look ten times worse than what it is. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do. The whole system needs an overhaul.”