The NSW Government has stepped up its campaign against alcohol abuse in the inner-city with licensing fines issued against several Darlinghurst nightclubs following raids on the weekend.

This comes after the Premier’s office intervened to extend a 2am lockout on 50 venues across the state. From 1 December the Oxford, Stonewall, Arq, Exchange and the Taylor Square Hotel will not be allowed to admit additional patrons after 2am, and will limit alcohol served after midnight as well as replacing all glass with plastic.

Some licensed venues are failing to meet basic responsible service of alcohol requirements and the operators are showing a total disregard for the responsible service and consumption of alcohol, Liquor and Racing Minister Kevin Greene said after raids in the Surry Hills, Kings Cross and Central local area commands.

Nine venues were fined a total of $20,900 and two will have their liquor licenses reviewed. The offences ranged from failing to have food available, intoxicated patrons, and staff drinking shots with patrons while on duty.

Liquor laws are designed to reduce the impact of alcohol consumption on local communities and increase public safety, Greene said. Licensees must ensure high levels of compliance to reduce intoxication levels and the associated community impacts such as assaults, malicious damage and offensive conduct.

Premier Nathan Rees said the Government would introduce legislation to freeze any new 24-hour licenses, and has instructed the NSW Sentencing Council, chaired by Justice James Woods, to review sentencing for alcohol-related violence and glassing.

The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing also plans to gradually replace the 50-venue shame list with a statewide sanctions scheme based on police statistics and license breaches.

Whiplash at 2am lockout uncertainty

When local licensees were negotiating a compromise 6am lockout with Surry Hills Police last week, they were under the impression it would avoid a 2 or 3am push.

Phoenix Rising Day Club promoter Johan Khoury said he had whiplash from the NSW Premier’s announcement of a 2am lockout to include his venue just two days after the Surry Hills Liquor Licensing Accord agreement.

Neither the Government nor police knew how many hours the lockout would last.

My head is spinning because I’ve heard it could extend till 10am. But police don’t know yet.It’s three weeks away and we’re trying to run a business, Khoury said.

We’re a unique case at Rising because we shut the venue at 4.30am and clean everybody out, then reopen for the day club at 6.30am. Arq, Oxford and Stonewall are also affected but they stay open.

Khoury said he would be writing to the Premier’s office asking for a postponement or an exclusion because his patrons would not be drinking at the venue throughout the night.

The gay community would also be disproportionately affected, he said.

They’ve just shut down four of our biggest places. Whereas at least the straight community have other places to go.

The new regulations will have no exemptions for Mardi Gras or New Year’s Day, as had been negotiated in the 6am compromise between police and the Surry Hills Liquor Accord.

At an earlier Accord meeting in July, Scruffy Murphy’s licensee Malcolm McGuinness said the introduction of plastic cups and a 2am lockout at his venue earlier this year did not harm business.

Management is very happy… and we can’t put these things off, he told his fellow licensees.

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