Byron drops New Year's Eve party


LEAVE the champagne at home this New Year's Eve ? Byron Bay is cancelling the party.

After meeting Byron Bay Police Insp Owen King, Byron mayor Jan Barham has announced a radical overhaul of the town's biggest night with a plan to turn all of Byron Bay's CBD streets, beaches and parks, into a massive alcohol-prohibited zone on New Year's Eve in a bid to tone down the party-town image and encourage local families back on to the streets.

The prohibition move would mean even unopened alcohol containers would not be allowed to be carried inside these zoned areas, Cr Barham said.

The BayFM dance party in Lawson Street and performance stages may also be canned, Cr Barham said.

"We have to send out a strong message this year," she said.

"It has to be low-key and we have to actually discourage people from coming to Byron Bay at New Year.

"An alcohol-prohibited zone will ensure the streets are safe and send out the message that we don't want people to come here and party."

Instead, Cr Barham wants New Year's Eve to be turned into a family picnic, starting with an invitation to school choirs to perform, attracting locals back into the town on the night.

"We will still have to organise some form of entertainment," Cr Barham said.

"There is still going to be 20,000 people around at that time of year, but it will have a far stronger community focus."

While the move would allow the town's pubs to stay open, bottleshops in the CBD could be closed on the night, Cr Barham said.

"It's a huge thing we're suggesting, I appreciate that," she said.

"It may cause constraints for different businesses, including the bottleshops and pubs, but this is something we'll have to do for the town," she said.

The Great Northern Hotel and Railway Friendly Bar hotelier Tom Mooney reacted angrily when told of the plan, refusing to comment for this story.

And, while the alcohol prohibition move does appear to be largely supported by the community-based New Year's Eve Safety Committee, the plan to can the dance party and big entertainment stages has already met with opposition.

Safety committee stalwarts for the past decade, Sean Latham and Peter Wynn-Moylan of BayFM, claim the Lawson Street dance party is being 'scapegoated' as the cause of the alcohol-induced New Year's chaos which has already forced the Byron Bay Lions Club to abandon their role in organising and insuring the event, and The Beach Hotel to consider closing its doors on the night.

"The dance party has been running for 10 years as part of the New Year's safety strategy," Mr Latham said. "The whole idea was that young people could dance all night and expend their energy that way.

"I'm certainly with people who don't want to see violence or Byron Bay being damaged, but that's why the dance party was so successful. The problems that have occurred have been outside of the dance party zone, not inside it."

Three years ago a cover charge was added, a move that increased safety by ensuring the dance zone was strictly alcohol and drugfree while also raising revenue to cover the costs of staging, fencing, security and cleaning-up after the celebrations, BayFM trea- surer Peter Wynn-Moylan said.

"Over the past three years the party raised $20,000 short of $1 million for this community," Mr Wynn-Moylan said.

"It has provided a safe place in town for young people."

It was doubtful whether BayFM would support moving the party to a venue outside the CBD, Mr WynnMoylan said.

"If it is moved, it will create an additional problem. There will be an excess of people trying to get into the town's venues.

"I don't think moving the dance party will solve the problems."

Both Mr Latham and Mr Wynn-Moylan want the council to take a long-term strategic look at the event instead and invest in a professionally co-ordinated street parade involving the whole community.

"We could employ our community's artists and technicians. We could return money to the community and it could be a winwin situation," Mr Latham said.

"But it will take a positive, creative, approach.

"Volunteer and community spirit will only go so far. It needs to be done professionally and you need funds to pay for it."

Former NYE co-ordinator, Jacqueline McRae, also warned the council not to cancel entertainment for young people on the night.

"They need to think twice about this," Ms McRae said.

"The demographic that comes into Byron Bay are not interested in school choirs. They are 18 to 25 years old.

"If the plan is to bring in a different demographic, that will take years to change and the stakeholders in the town need to be consulted and involved.

"To have a successful event (the council) has to provide entertainment, otherwise they'll have trouble on their hands."

Byron Bay police will now take the alcohol-prohibited zone plan to Byron Shire Council.

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