Sober warning to Lismore pubs

By Alex Easton TWO police officers have been allegedly attacked by drunken patrons less than three weeks after the region's pubs and clubs rejected claims they were among the State's most violent watering holes.

The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing yesterday announced three Lismore drinking venues would be prosecuted in the NSW Licensing Court for breaching the State's drinking laws.

Director Albert Gardner warned Northern Rivers licensees to get their acts together or face even harsher penalties under new laws from July 1.

The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing yesterday said an inspection by department officers and police of 10 venues at Lismore, Ballina, Evans Head and Lennox Head last Thursday and Friday found nine drunk people in four venues.

During the inspection: !n Drunken patrons at a Lismore venue allegedly attacked two police officers, leading to three people being charged;

!n Another Lismore venue was accused of serving drinks that were too strong, after being caught serving a cocktail containing six varieties of liquor and failing to provide low-alcohol alternatives;

!n A bar worker at the same venue is to be fined $550 after allegedly being caught serving someone already drunk;

!n Police and department officers found a 17-year-old teen in another Lismore venue.

The inspections and resulting court action come only a few weeks after Northern Rivers licensees rejected a police list that showed Lismore pubs The Standard Hotel and Mary Gilhooleys, and Byron Bay venue Cheek Monkey's, among the 100 most violent drinking venues in NSW.

Last week's inspection did not include, and does not reflect on, Cheeky Monkey's.

Mr Gardner said the results showed Lismore's pubs and clubs still had work to do to meet current laws.

He said the venues faced fines of about $5500 if convicted of serving alcohol to people who were already drunk, but warned his office was to be given new powers that would be even more damaging and did not require a court order.

From July 1, department officers would be able to place conditions on licences based on their own assessment of risk. That could mean limitations such as a ban on venues selling full-strength beer after midnight, or even cancelling licences altogether, regardless of whether officers had found the venue breaching rules.

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