Sobering news for Byron Bay

By RACHEL AFFLICK

IN a matter of months Byron Bay has gone from being named from one of the State’s worst hot spots for alcohol-fuelled violence, to being a role model for coastal towns.

Byron Bay has turned around its image as a troubled party town by dramatically slashing the number of alcohol-related assaults occurring in its pubs and clubs.

The effort has been so outstanding that the State Director of Liquor and Gaming, Albert Gardner, visited the area yesterday to congratulate local club and pub staff.

He has singled out the town, saying it could be used as a role model for other alcohol hot spots.

“We hope to if what they’re doing is portable and can be adopted in other areas,” Mr Gardner said.

Last year it was a different story.

“In discussions with NSW police we have a range of indicators that ranked areas by their crime statistics. Byron was unfortunately near the top,” Mr Gardner said.

The Byron Bay Alcohol Response Taskforce, comprising the NSW Office of Liquor and Gaming, police and the Byron Bay Liquor Accord, was launched last July to reduce the statistics.

In seven months alcohol-related assaults at three of the town’s most popular venues has fallen by 81 per cent. Mr Gardner said Cheeky Monkey’s, the Beach Hotel and the Great Northern Hotel should be praised for their efforts.

Overall there was a 13 per cent reduction in alcohol-related assaults in all licensed venues in the Byron Bay area.

Cheeky Monkey’s owner Monique Phillips said by bringing the focus back on to entertainment, food and fun, and shifting it away from cheap grog, they had seen a huge improvement.

One of Cheeky Monkey’s most effective measures has been to set up a hotline for surrounding residents to report alcohol-related incidents, such as somebody being drunk and rowdy in a resident’s front yard.

Venue security is then deployed to defuse the situation.

“We’ve started taking responsibility for the whole area, not just inside the venue,” Ms Phillips said.

Grant Seddon, licensing co-ordinator for the Tweed Byron Local Area Command, said in January 2007 police had responded to one assault a day, compared with just two a week now.

Byron Bay Liquor Accord chairman Gary Charles said it was a credit to the venues.

“The statistics showed there were too many alcohol-related assaults in Byron and they (the Department of Liquor and Gaming) looked to us to come up with local strategies,” he said.

“There are things we can improve on, but we are getting the message out to patrons.”



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