The OLGR has undertaken to perform a comprehensive review of the benefits and impacts of the forced 10pm bottleshop closure law, to the relief of industry and warning cries from anti-liquor advocates.
The NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing issued a communique to industry stakeholders last Thursday revealing it will be conducting the review on the take-away liquor sales restriction. The letter clearly stated that the NSW Government had committed to reviewing this law “after it had been operating for at least 12 months”.
Mandatory 10pm closing State-wide was introduced in NSW in February, 2014, by Barry O’Farrell under pressure to address issues of violence in Sydney, most notably the deaths of teenagers Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie on the streets of Kings Cross.
OLGR reiterated that the law had aimed to strike a balance between reducing the availability of alcohol, and opening times – specifically citing consideration for people to purchase alcohol “before going out for the night or when socialising at home”.
The argument of reduced availability comes in direct response to the issue of ‘pre-loading’ – where people drink at home beforehand or en-route to licensed venues.
But given that OLGR acknowledges this ‘public need’ in its consideration of the earlier closing times, the question seems to turn to who is actually restricted by the earlier closing times. Operators have reported to PubTIC this seems to be mostly the “occasional regular” customer, such as the shift worker or retail employee that drops in to buy a bottle of wine or couple of beers on the way home.
“After the first six months, those people stopped coming in,” said one source. “Now they go to the big liquor stores and buy in bulk, so they already have that drink when they want it.”
Around the State, smaller operators in rural and regional areas – far removed from the crowds and nightlife of Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross – report the measures have significantly reduced their revenue.
The raft of trade restrictions brought in by the O’Farrell Government, which included the now infamous 1:30 ‘lockout’ and 3am cease service zones, have been slammed by critics for being heavy-handed and reactionary, and importantly for being imposed without supporting evidence or industry consultation.
And yet as the authorities deem to sit down and discuss one law’s efficacy, again headline-grabbing shock-media offers up outrage and biased opinion as reason to drop any conscientious analysis.
Toby Hall, CEO of St Vincent’s Health, was quoted as saying it is “too early to be evaluating just one of the impacts” and that “you need to leave enough time for the whole suite of measures to be tested to see if they work as a package”.
Hall is an acclaimed operator with a history of humanitarian-based positions, but one of the justifiable criticisms of the “package” of restrictions was that it makes scientific analysis of the merits of any one element almost impossible to measure. What’s more, systematic analysis and/or retraction of one element at a time may in fact allow individual merits to be seen.
NSW OLGR has also mandated to review the remaining aspects of the trade restrictions in February, 2016 – once they have been in place for two years.