Last drinks: The movements of patrons such as these, pictured at Byron Bay nightclub La La Land, will be restricted after council voted in favour of a trial of 1am lockouts in the town.
Last drinks: The movements of patrons such as these, pictured at Byron Bay nightclub La La Land, will be restricted after council voted in favour of a trial of 1am lockouts in the town. Jay Cronan

Byron to go ahead with lock-out

DANGER and drunkenness on the streets of Byron Bay late at night has led the council to move to curb young clubbers’ access to alcohol.

The council voted unanimously yesterday to support a 1am lock-out trial at licensed premises, and to seek support for the action from the Liquor Accord and State Government.

Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said there was a lot of talk about tourism in the shire, ‘but one of the most important things you can offer as a tourist destination is safety’.

This had to be the priority in attracting visitors to the town, she said.

“I am concerned that we are increasing in the crime statistics,” Cr Barham said.

“Anyone who has been in Byron Bay late at night would have seen what it’s like.”

Cr Barham said many residents had expressed how frightened they were on the streets of their town.

“The police, ambos, hospital workers are all calling for this change, because we all know the situation is caused by misuse of alcohol,” she said.

Earlier, a Liquor Accord representative, Luke Thomas, had opposed the move to an earlier lock-out.

The council had not attended any Accord meetings to raise these issues, he said.

And he questioned whether it would have an effect on late-night crime.

“Most drink-driving offences in the shire are committed by people leaving restaurants,” he said.

The limiting of drinkers’ mobility in the early hours of the morning was supported by local police, ambulance workers, nurses and doctors on the Northern Rivers yesterday.

A coalition of emergency service workers, calling themselves the Last Drinks Campaign, commended the council for acting against alcohol-related violence and crime.

The Police Association’s Northern Region executive member, Tony King, rejected complaints from the Byron Bay Liquor Accord, saying industry self-regulation simply wasn’t working.

“The Liquor Accord thinks that voluntary curfews, self-imposed restrictions on shots, and limiting group shouts at the discretion of the bartender are good enough,” he said.

“Not for police, and not for the nurses, ambos and doctors that have to clean up the mess.

“We want people to be able to visit Byron, to go out at night and have a good time. Unfortunately, it takes more than voluntary restrictions to make sure that happens.

“That’s why we are commending Byron Shire Council for standing up to the hotel industry bullies and putting the health and safety of their residents and visitors first,” Mr King said.

NSW Police Association vice-president Scott Weber said there was impressive evidence that by simply reducing the trading hours of licensed premises, a significant drop in the number of alcohol-related assaults could be achieved.

“In March 2008, the NSW Liquor Administration Board imposed a number of modest restrictions on 14 licensed premises in Newcastle.

“These included a 1am lock-out, restrictions on the sale of shots, and bringing forward closing times from 5am to 3am.

“The results from these measures were spectacular, with assaults after dark falling by 29 per cent – or 133 per year,” Mr Weber said.

Mr Weber said more councils should take a stand against the effects of booze-fuelled violence in their area.

Yesterday’s council meeting also voted to change the times Shores United Junior Soccer Club was able to train and play under lights at the Tom Kendall Oval in New Brighton.

It heard impassioned submissions from committee member Ted Kabbout and club president Mark Patten, who asked: “Why doesn’t Ocean Shores matter?”

“There are 160 children playing soccer, with 500 supporters, but the area has been badly neglected by council,” he said.

The council unanimously decided to allow the club to shift its ‘lit-up’ nights to Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

The club was also successful in having the lights avail- able from its first match on April 30. Previously they were scheduled to be switched on in mid-May, following a report that they might have an adv- erse impact on loggerhead turtles breeding nearby.

Cr Ross Tucker asked: “What about the house lights and the car lights in the area?

“We’re losing sight of the fact that this is a sports field, in a place where the provision of recreational facilities is poor. Having the lights on seven nights a week is all right by me.”

The council also supported the creation of a refuge for abandoned animals, run and mainly funded by the Companion Animals Welfare group.

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