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MoneyFears new SA Government liquor licence fee increases will create lockout laws by stealth

03:30  30 may  2019
03:30  30 may  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Young hospitality workers fear incoming changes to liquor licensing fees will cut jobs and ruin the nightlife and bar scene they have worked hard to build in Adelaide.

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Young hospitality workers fear incoming changes to liquor licensing fees will cut jobs and ruin Adelaide's nightlife and bar scene, which they have worked hard to build.

Fears new SA Government liquor licence fee increases will create lockout laws by stealth© Provided by ABC News Millie Hopkins wants other Adelaide bar workers to join her in opposing the fee increases. Liquor licensing fees are set to increase by up to 600 per cent for some Adelaide late-night entertainment venues, which are now considering whether they will be able to stay open past 2:00am.

Leigh Street bar worker Millie Hopkins has been rallying other hospitality workers to fight the changes, which she feared would create a form of lockout laws and kill Adelaide's nightlife.

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"I think Adelaide's come a very long way in recent years thanks to this industry," she told ABC News.

"We have seen what's happened to Sydney's nightlife over the past few years in the increase to relatively harsh liquor licensing laws and it is something that we don't want to happen in South Australia.

"It's a bit of snowball effect — it goes on to affect people's jobs, employment rates and venues being able to easily open.

"A lot of the clubs that we do have here have been able to secure quite a large number of international talent that have been able to play and perform at them.

"Long term, if we're going to create an environment where we can't bring in these acts, we can't be promoting ourselves as a very music state."

New fees will give wrong incentive: bar owner

Lotus Lounge is one of the original small bars that started up in Adelaide 14 years ago.

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On Saturday nights, it stays open until 5:00am with local and international music acts performing.

But owner Brett Stewart said his liquor licence fees would increase from $3,500 per year to $16,500 in June next year and said he had little choice but to apply for a different licence and close by 2:00am.

"It's a big slap in the face — 600 per cent, it's just too much," he said.

"They're going to kill culture and they're making it so the only places that can operate at these times is the 'trough' venues … that demonstrate why you should be locking people out.

"We're not here to push a lot of grog onto the general public, we're here to provide a fun environment, a safe environment.

"It just makes it so the only places that can benefit is the large places, your casinos and your Hindley Street trough venues."

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The state Opposition agreed that proposed liquor licensing fee increases would have a huge ripple effect beyond licensed venues.

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"A lot of these bars and venues that open later specialise in selling Australian wines, SA spirits and other products that benefit our local economy," shadow treasurer Stephen Mullighan said.

"When these venues close, not only will it put people out of work but it will make it harder for SA producers."

The planned fee increases are the latest in a string of plans from the State Government to cover a $500 million shortfall in expected GST revenue, including cutting some festival funding.

Treasurer Rob Lucas told ABC News said it was "nonsense" that these changes would create lockout laws by stealth.

"The Government doesn't want to see lockout laws, the Government doesn't want to reduce the vibrancy of Adelaide's nightlife and we're positive — and all the advice we've received — is that that won't occur," he said.

"We're not going to see the equivalent of lockout laws that have occurred in Sydney."

He said the Government would generate an extra $3 million in revenue from the changes to liquor licensing fees.

"They'll have to make the decision as to whether they want to trade up until 5:00am," he said.

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"If they only trade until 4:00am, there's a $9,000 reduction immediately on the size of the liquor licensing fee they will be charged."

He said fees to small bars that trade up until 2:00am would increase from about $100 to $400 each year.

Other factors also closing bars

Grote Street music venue La Boheme closed in May, with its owner blaming the granting of more than 150 small-bar licences in Adelaide since 2013 for a large drop in turnover.

"I didn't understand or didn't know that they were going to introduce that many, that it wasn't capped, so what we've found is that since the small bar category came in, there's been a slow decrease in turnover," Mr Boylon said.

In November 2018, a NSW parliamentary inquiry found the state was in the midst of a "music venue crisis".

The committee heard evidence that 2014 lockout laws were a "sledgehammer" to Sydney's nightlife and put "the nail in the coffin" of the contemporary live music scene.

While it made 60 recommendations designed to revitalise the industry and cut red tape for music venues, it stopped short of calling for lockout laws to be repealed.

"Evidence provided to the committee from many stakeholders, including venue owners and prominent musicians, clearly indicates that lockout laws have contributed to a reduction of live music bookings, a contraction of the live music scene and the closure of numerous live music venues in inner Sydney," the committee's report stated.

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