DON’T BE MY GUEST: Chris Schneider, food and beverage manager at Aquarius Backpackers in Byron Bay, says about 20 staff will be laid off indefinitely.
DON’T BE MY GUEST: Chris Schneider, food and beverage manager at Aquarius Backpackers in Byron Bay, says about 20 staff will be laid off indefinitely. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Aquarius calls last drinks after pressure from booze cops

IT WILL be last drinks at Aquarius Backpackers in Byron Bay on Sunday as it prepares to close its bar indefinitely following repeated inspections from the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing.

Aquarius owner Dr Harry Chua said the decision to stop serving alcohol was voluntary, insisting the business had not broken any licensing laws but staff had been placed under "substantial stress" by a number of inspections and "onerous" reporting requirements.

The move follows an inspection last Saturday in which two undercover inspectors told Aquarius staff they had been erroneously serving alcohol - a claim Aquarius denies.

"Undercovers came into the premises and purchased a light meal from the barbecue," Mr Chua said in a statement.

"They had their wrist stamped and proceeded to purchase alcohol.

"Apparently we did the wrong thing as they had not eaten their food.

"To get our staff to monitor whether meals purchased are actually eaten, whether food is spat out or swallowed, is going beyond their job description."

The business is licensed to serve alcohol to guests staying at the premises, but non-guests must purchase food in order to be served alcohol, explained food and beverage manager Scott Schneider.

Mr Schneider said the business had been inspected on four weekends in the past couple of months.

"We're all stressed every night wondering what may happen (with inspections)."

Aquarius will now apply for a primary service licence as an add-on to its existing licences - allowing it to serve alcohol to non-guests without a food purchase.

Until that application is approved, around 20 staff will be laid off. "We'll try to find new positions for our key staff while we go through the primary licence process," Mr Schneider said.



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