News April 8, 2016

Licence fee hike for late night Canberra venues?

The ACT Government has once again emphasised it will not go the way of NSW and Queensland and introduce lock-out laws. According to Attorney-General Simon Corbell, evidence suggested it was not lockout laws but closing times that made a difference to late-night violence.

However the ACT Government is still concerned about alcohol-fuelled violence and injuries in entertainment precincts. It has introduced a white page discussion paper with 40 proposals for community analysis over six weeks.

A major suggestion addresses the problem that a third of public assaults in Canberra occur between 3am and 6am. 

The Government’s plan is for current license fees to stay as they are for venues which close at 3am. But those wanting to stay open until 4am will face a fee hike of 300% to $100,000. Those staying open until 5am, the current closing time, would cop a 500% rise, from $27,238 a year to $163,000.

38 licensed venues (22 of them clubs) open until 4am, and another eleven, mostly nightclubs, can open until 5am.

The Attorney-General said the fee hikes would ensure that the taxpayer would not have to bear the burden of combating the cost of alcohol violence.

“The fee increases would be substantive … to help meet more of the costs associated with police and community safety measures like lighting and safety cameras… 

“These businesses turn over millions of dollars in revenue every year and … there is clearly is a commercial advantage for them to trade late. What we are trying to indicate is there is also a cost to trading late.”

Another strategy is to encourage more smaller (under 80 capacity) bars and venues which close by midnight, to flourish. Their fees would be slashed from $2500 to $650. “There are significant safety benefits from having a larger number of smaller venues,” Corbell pointed out.

Two more proposed initiatives that could affect the ACT live music sector: a new demerit point system for venues that are non-compliant, and the opportunity for some venues to apply to trade later four times each year for special events.

Larger bottle stores, which turn over $1 million a year, would cop a 25% licence fee jump. They had to also bear the financial costs, the Attorney-General explained, because of the high level of nightclub patrons pre-loading before they went to the venue and caused problems after.

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