Shuttle buses may ferry people in grog-free zone

By Megan Kinninment

There could be a booze bus of a different sort appearing in Byron Bay this New Year's Eve.

Four bottle shops in the town's CBD may be forced to provide shuttle buses to ferry customers across an alcohol-prohibited zone on NYE under a plan endorsed by Byron Shire Council yesterday.

The council voted through mayor Jan Barham's plan to impose an alcohol prohibition making it illegal to carry alcohol in the town's CBD from midday on NYE to 6am on New Year's Day.

The move virtually closes down bottle shops in the town from midday as customers would risk fines of up to $110 if they bought their grog then walked out of the shop and into the zone with their purchases.

Byron Bay Coast Country Liquor manager Darren Pearson asked the council to start the prohibition from 6pm instead of noon, but was knocked back.

"This New Year the activities will be starting a lot earlier, and the police, churches and community groups have asked that the mood be set very early on," Cr Jan Barham said.

Cr John Lazarus also supported the booze-ban: "This is an important problem. There is the potential for 20,000 rioting drunk people on the streets," Cr Lazarus said.

However Crs Ray Kestle, Dianne Woods and Jan Mangleson voted against the plan, saying it was unreasonable to ask the bot- tle shops to close at noon on the busiest retail night of the year.

"What happens if someone buys a bottle of wine and they want to walk across the road with it? Or they live in, or are staying within, the zone?" Cr Kestle asked.

"They can have a shuttlebus that takes them to the perimeter," Cr Barham suggested.

"But, wouldn't that be illegal under this plan? Just getting into the bus would involve stepping into the zone," Cr Jan Mangleson countered.

Mr Pearson agreed shuttling his customers across town wouldn't work: "It would be a logistical nightmare.

"We get 6000 customers on that night," he said.

"We just couldn't arrange transport for all of them."

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