Liquor fees change lower the bar
By MARY MANN
BOUTIQUE bars are likely to start popping up around the North Coast with the announcement of changes to NSW liquor licence laws.
The proposed changes are aimed at encouraging licensees to open smaller, more intimate watering holes. They will mean small bars in NSW will be allowed to serve alcohol without the need to serve food with it.
And, it will be cheaper to do so, with the licence fee expected to drop from $15,000 to $500 for a small bar and $2000 for a hotel.
Some operators welcomed the move, but others are concerned. Local bar operator Diane Parker say the changes will boost the North Coast tourism industry.
Ms Parker, who owns Cafe 29 in Lismore and Ballina, said she wished the reform had been introduced earlier.
In 2005 she went through the long process of getting a drink-or-dine licence, which cost her about $15,000.
"It was a huge process and there were a lot of legal fees, as well as the ordinary fees for getting the licence," she said.
"This change will be good for the industry. It will allow smaller, more sophisticated places to open up.
"It's like in Europe, you can get a glass of wine just about anywhere. It makes it more enticing for tourists." Bryan Marriott, secretary of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce, agreed the changes would boost tourism.
"This will be a tremendous advantage for regional and coastal towns," he said. But others fear it will be too easy to get a liquor licence, leading to problems with the responsible service of alcohol.
Anthony Keon, licensee of the Ballina Hotel, says the changes could lead to inexperienced operators not serving alcohol responsibly.
"It's a worry when you can just pay $500 and walk into an operation like that," he said. NSW Premier Morris Iemma said the changes were fair.
"We've talked to the community, we've talked to the industry and all key stakeholders. We've come up with new laws that strike a balance for all parties," he said.