As the spotlight heats up in NSW on the Sydney lockouts and State-wide bottleshop closing times, a border town Victorian Magistrate has publicly questioned local licensing.

On 12 April last year two brothers ended a long night of drinking with a trip to McDonalds, where around 6am they got into a heated argument with another man, whom they subsequently beat.

Jack Steer, aged 22, and Michael Steer, aged 21, appeared in Wanagaratta Magistrates’ Court before Magistrate John O’Callaghan and pleaded guilty to unlawful assault.

Magistrate O’Callaghan expressed a desire to a “stamp out random, wanton violence” in the community, and questioned why a Victorian town allowed venues to close so late.

“Sydney closes at 1.30am and Wangaratta’s 5am? That’s extraordinary,” he said.

“I wonder who gets thirsty at 4am in the morning.”

Yet Jack was fined just $1,000, and his brother Michael, who has appeared before the courts previously on charges relating to the use of the drug ice, was fined $1,500 due to his greater criminal history but significantly not made to do the six-month suspended jail sentence he already held.

The Border Mail reported the sentence was not enforced due to his “work to rehabilitate himself from drug use”.

The Wangaratta area has previously been cited as one of the worst regions in Victoria for drug-related offenses.

Magistrate O’Callaghan also saw the case of Joel Bihun, aged 24, who came to the defence of a team mate and knocked a man out in Wangaratta’s Grand Central Hotel.

Rival football teams were the centre of simmering arguments at the pub on 20 December last year, and the victim and another man were in an argument when Bihun hit him, knocking him out for around ten minutes and causing concussion.

His solicitor claimed self-defence, saying the man had thrown the first punch, but Magistrate O’Callaghan expressed his disapproval.

“I don’t want to send young people to jail, but I also don’t want to see someone knocked to the ground unconscious for 10 minutes,” he said.

“I think he’s going to go down and I think he’s going to go to jail.”

Meanwhile, across the border in Wodonga, Greg Evans has reopened his Carrier Arms Hotel after a brief closure when lessees Ron and Michelle Montgomery left the business.

The Montgomerys had introduced a somewhat controversial policy of ‘scantily clad’ attendants in the drive-through bottleshop, to attract patronage.

Inciting mixed feelings in the modest NSW town, Evans has confirmed the bottleshop bikini policy won’t be continuing.

Bottleshop attendants Kellie Arrowsmith & Chris Allard
Former Carrier Arms bottleshop attendants Kellie Arrowsmith & Chris Allard

But now out-of-work former Carrier Arms bottleshop attendant, and author of ‘Skimpy – Outrageous true tales of crocodiles, snakes and pulling beers in the Outback’, Kellie Arrowsmith, has expressed indignity at the implications of exploitation and claims “a significant increase in sales” while she was there.

“There are girls in Western Australia who are skimpies and they own three homes by the time they are 30,” she said.

“I don’t understand what’s degrading about that, to me that’s pretty empowering.”

Map Wodonga and Wangaratta_Gg

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