Liquor reform row looms

Robert DoughertyNorth West Telegraph

Proposed State Government liquor reforms designed to support WA’s tourism industry have met with a mixed response in the Pilbara.

The reforms would give Tourism WA equal consideration for liquor licensing applications and allow licensed restaurants and cafes with a capacity of 120 people or less to serve alcohol without a meal.

At the time of print the Liquor Control Amendment Bill 2018 was expected to be presented to State Parliament this week. Premier Mark McGowan said it would drive a new wave of hospitality activity.

“We’re getting on with the job by introducing these reforms to cut red tape and bring in a more commonsense approach to liquor licensing,” he said.

In other proposed changes, liquor applications would include a public interest assessment of venues’ tourism, community and cultural benefits and would allow patrons to take home their unfinished bottles of wine.

Hedland Harbour Cafe hospitality consultant Cat Cahill said the reforms were a positive change.

“I think it’s an exceptionally positive outcome because it will open up trading opportunities for people, but what we face as operators in Port Hedland is restrictions based on the liquor accord — it’s always a conflict,” she said.

The cafe does not have a liquor licence. Bloodwood Tree Association chief executive Kelly Howlett said the reforms presented no immediate issues of harm to the community through alcohol.

“At all times, the key for Bloodwood Tree is that all licensed premises provide responsible service of alcohol to their patrons,” she said.

“Given our restaurants (small number and not large seating numbers) and the already ready availability of licensed premises to drink, on face value Bloodwood Tree does not think that the ability for restaurants to serve alcohol without food, will be that great of an issue in our local community.

“Bloodwood Tree does not feel that restaurant patrons taking home an unfinished bottle of wine will be an issue.”

Pier Hotel, Port Hedland owner Lynne Taylor said the new reforms would have unforeseen issues for the Pilbara.

“I don’t like the idea of a full wine bottle going outside where it can be used as a weapon ... bottles are used as weapons if people are angry and intoxicated, not even on alcohol but also drugs,” she said.

“I think there’s enough liquor licences here in the Pilbara already”.

National Drug Research Centre Professor Steve Allsop said health should be the primary issue in licence applications.

“Alcohol is not an ordinary product and that is why we have liquor licensing laws,” he said. “I would go so far as to say there is no other reason for liquor licensing laws other than the public health considerations.

Australian Medical Association WA president Omar Khorshid said it was appropriate to take a broad view of licence applications “but it is really important that legitimate concerns by health authorities or police are not diluted by a purely economic focus”.

Australian Hotels Association WA chief executive Bradley Woods said the proposals were more conducive to a modern economy and better aligned to customer needs.

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