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Pubs fight back

Monday, 18th July, 2011

By Darrin Manuel

It seems that every Monday morning the BDT has another report of drunk, violent or disorderly behaviour over the weekend.

Police reports of drunken fights and assaults along with fines for patrons who fail to quit or move on from a licensed premises are appearing more often than local hospitality figures would like.

The venue that is often considered to be at the centre of the trouble is the newly reopened Night Train - a night spot that gained notoriety in previous decades for hosting many a wild night.

However, licensee Di Flack is looking to change the perception of the Night Train, and said the nightclub was doing all it could to reduce trouble between its patrons.

“We do everything the liquor accord suggests. We don’t do shots, we don’t serve drunks, we have plastic cups - we don’t even have Red Bull or Mother,” she said.

“We have more security than the law requires. I’m not sure what else we can do.”

Ms Flack said most of the incidents took place outside of the nightclub and were therefore difficult for staff and security to control. 

Recently the venue has been trying to stagger the exit of its patrons to prevent fights and arguments from occurring outside.

“When we call last drinks they get one drink. They can’t come up and get six. And once we finish serving we turn the music down and leave it on for another 30 minutes so everyone doesn’t leave at once.

“They can finish their drink at their own pace and they’re not aggro - we’re doing our best.”

The recent spate of incidents has also raised the ire of the Barrier Liquor Accord (BLA) which have been running an advertising campaign with local media outlets in the hope of cutting down on alcohol-related incidents.

BLA member and Mulga Hotel owner Dean Trengove said it was time individual drinkers started acting responsibly, rather than society simply placing blame on the venues.

“The reason we’re running this ad campaign about failing to quit and anti-social behaviour is because people don’t seem to be getting the message,” he said.

“It all comes down to the responsibility of the individuals that frequent the premises, you can’t just blame the venue. We’ve been saying for five to ten years.

“It’s no fault of the venue or the managers, they’re having a go.

“They’re just there to provide entertainment and all it takes is a few idiots to spoil it.”

Mr Trengove said he felt that the Night Train was suffering from being a recent addition to the city’s nightlife, making it an easy target for troublemakers who are looking for a new location in which to drink.

“A lot of problem patrons, or serial pests as I sometimes call them, have been banned from the Mulga, Demo, Alma - the only place they have left is the Night Train.

“So they all go there, and it’s unfortunate for those guys that they don’t have the sort of ban list that gets formed over a period of years.”

The process of identifying such undesirables is underway at the Night Train, and Ms Flack said staff and security were working hard to form and enforce a list of banned patrons.

“That list is growing very quickly. We have zero tolerance. If people want to hit someone they can go home and not come back,” she said.

“People are calling me all the time asking when they can get back in, but they can’t. We won’t put up with that behaviour.”

However, it appears hoteliers and licensees aren’t the only ones receiving a backlash from the numbert of fines and drunken incidents arising on weekends.

Some feel the fines handed out by police are a little excessive or even unwarranted, but Sergeant Dave Gallagher said police were simply doing their job.

“Police are always seen to be on the bad side of it. We don’t want to give these fines out, but it’s the Act, and we must do it,” he said.

“If people are attending a licenced premises and they’re behaving in a disorderly or quarrelsome manner, then we have to act accordingly.

“We encourage people to go out and enjoy themselves, but you don’t have to go and get intoxicated to do it.

“It spoils it for themselves and others, and also the licensees. They shouldn’t have to put up with such behaviour.

“We’ve got zero tolerance for drunk and disorderly behaviour, and that message must get out.”

The tough stance won praise from the BLA, with Mr Trengove citing the fines as the clubs and hotels’ only real weapon in the fight against drunken violence.

“We want to come out in support of the police, they’re coming under fire for handing out these $550 fines, but really it’s the only protection we’ve got,” he said.

“Twenty years ago if a policeman told you to move along you’d run home, but these days police don’t get the level of respect they deserve.

“They’re doing a difficult job in a difficult area with difficult people.

“To some people $550 is a lot of money, and to other it’s not. But at the end of the day, you can do a lot with $550.

It’s a good sting to remind people, Mr Trengove said.

“The individual needs to be more accountable, and finally it seems to be happening.”