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Fees wipe out liquor licences

Tuesday, 27th February, 2018

The Mulga’s Dean Trengove and Demo Club General Manager Karren Howe agree that the introduction of annual liquor licensing fees is a big part of pubs shutting down. The Mulga’s Dean Trengove and Demo Club General Manager Karren Howe agree that the introduction of annual liquor licensing fees is a big part of pubs shutting down.

By Kara de Groot

For the first time in NSW, the number of bottle shops has outstripped the number of pubs in the state.

While the same isn’t true for Broken Hill, there has been a steady decline in the number of licensed pubs, clubs and hotels in the city over the past three decades.

While everyone laments the loss of pubs before the turn of the century, 2015 was actually a worse time for losing liquor licences than the entire decade of the 90s.

The Mulga’s Dean Trengove said this was in part due to the introduction of annual licensing fees in that year.

“This will be the third year we’ll be hit with a licence fee, which is a minimum of $500 for a pub,” Mr Trengove said.

“However, if you trade later than midnight you can add $2,500 to that and if you trade later than 1.30am that’s another $2,500, and that’s without the extra costs if you have any strikes and penalties against you.”

In 2015, nine different clubs and hotels in Broken Hill handed in their licences or let them expire, according to data provided by Liquor, Gaming and Racing. These venues included the Legion Club, the Male ‘N’ Rouge Hotel, Hotel and Club Services, and The Union Club Hotel, with a number of social clubs and cafes also handing in their liquor licences.

General Manager of the Demo Club, Karren Howe, said a big problem with later trading hours, aside from the increase in licensing fees, is anti-social behaviour.

“Unfortunately, when you go past a certain time, about 2am, even with only an extra hour, the amount of problems you incur from patrons don’t just double, they increase exponentially,” she said. 

“You go from having one problem a month to every night, so it’s just not worthwhile,” she said.

“The onus is on the licensee and the employees, the onus isn’t on the patron.

“The penalties are justified to some degree, but there’s very little personal responsibility.”

Across the entirety of the 1990s, nine pubs and hotels also closed including the New Caledonian, the Centennial, the Hillside, the Newmarket Hotel, the Imperial and the Duke of Cornwall.

This isn’t a conclusive list of all the pubs, hotels and clubs in Broken Hill that have closed in past years, rather a list of locations that had liquor licences and do not any more.

Some hotels, for example the Pig and Whistle, had a liquor licence but closed down in 2003. Because that licence was then transferred to a pub in Tuggerah its details weren’t listed in the data request for the Broken Hill LGA from the Liquor and Gaming Authority.

One of the big pushes behind pub closures in Broken Hill in the ‘90s was the value of liquor licences.

At that time liquor licences could be sold within the state to other venues, but this is no longer the case.

According to the Liquor and Gaming website, liquor licences are now attached to premises, not a person.

“You can transfer a liquor licence when you buy or sell a business, this allows a new business owner to trade under the existing licence,” the website states.

“If you are moving your business to another location, you must apply to take your liquor licence with you.

“We treat an application to remove a liquor licence from one venue to another the same as an application for a new liquor licence, the fee to move a liquor licence is the same as the fee to apply for a new liquor licence of the same type.”

Nowadays, the most valuable item for pubs and clubs are their poker machine entitlements.

Hotel broker Peter Manenti of Manenti, Quinlan and Associates said many country hotels close after the sale of their pokies entitlements because their operating costs are high and their land value is low.

“What’s happened to country outpost hotels is that they have closed after pocketing this money, and hand the licence back,” Mr Manenti said.

2016 saw three pubs, cafes and hotels either hand in or have their liquor licence expire, although the closure of the establishment may have occurred prior.

Mr Trengove agreed, saying buying a business in Broken Hill is out of most people’s price range.

“It’s more beneficial for hotels, if you can’t sell it as a going concern, to sell your gaming entitlements and liquor licence,” he said.

“Then they have their building left and they don’t need to sell it for as high a price because they’ve already made their money back, so they’re not selling a business.”

Several clubs, such as the local footy clubs, applied to have their licences changed in the past three years.

The North Football Club let their limited liquor licence expire at the end of last year, replacing it with an on-premises licence.

Limited licences, as the name says, limits the number of times a year a venue can sell alcohol on premises, while an on-premises licences allows alcohol sale all year round, within the building.

The changes in takeaway liquor laws has also put strain on licensees of all sorts.

Ms Howe said the 11pm halt time, which is meant to help decrease domestic violence, doesn’t match up with domestic violence statistics. 

“We’ve been penalised by not allowing takeaway drinks after 11, but if you look at the statistics that’s not when most domestic violence occurrences happen,” Ms Howe said.

“We think that may be rolled back to midnight soon, like it was several years ago, but the level of effort that’s had to go in to get that to happen was phenomenal.

“What happens in Sydney is not necessarily what happens out here, but unfortunately we’re all tied to the same legislation.”

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