A RENEWED push is under way to wind back the tough trading restrictions on Newcastle pubs.
Nanjing Night Net

Hoteliers are claiming the controversial conditions – which include earlier closing times, a lockout and alcohol service measures – have largely failed and are unfair on venues that do the right thing.

But police representatives warn any changes would bring a return of violence to the streets.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen plans to convene a meeting of stakeholders to discuss the effectiveness of the landmark Liquor Administration Board decision of 2008.

The move has angered the Police Association of NSW, which said Mr Owen should stop ‘‘taking advice from publicans and start listening to local police’’.

The city has five venues on the state government’s most recent ‘‘name and shame’’ list of violent venues: MJ Finnegans, Fannys, the Cambridge Hotel, the Queens Wharf Brewery, and the King Street Hotel.

But the conditions on Newcastle pubs are already more stringent Hoteliers push to change rules than those that apply to all the state’s ‘‘violent venues’’.

The government’s new three-strikes policy is set to begin in January, which would entail altering a hotel’s licence conditions, cancelling or suspending licences for up to 12 months after three offences have been recorded.

The Australian Hotels Association NSW branch has questioned the layers of rules and whether Newcastle conditions should be abandoned in favour of the three-strikes approach. It has urged more be done to tackle problems such as poor transport in the city.

Conditions imposed separately on Hamilton pubs are being reviewed, with a decision on whether to make the restrictions permanent due in February.

The Newcastle Herald can reveal Hunter New England Health has cautioned authorities in a submission not to relax the Hamilton conditions, to avoid alcohol harm in the community.

A Newcastle-Hamilton precinct liquor accord established under the former Labor government to help tackle late-night problems has effectively collapsed, with no meetings held for several months.

Mr Owen said he would take advice from stakeholders on the situation, and was ‘‘not taking sides’’.

He said the ‘‘idiocy of some serial offenders’’ was ruining it for other venues and that a blanket approach may be detracting from the late-night experience of the city for responsible patrons.

He said the three-strikes policy would target repeat offenders.

‘‘My issue is that everybody’s bunched in together,’’ Mr Owen said. ‘‘Are we achieving the aim of what we want, which is less violence in pubs?’’

It is understood the head of the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing Elizabeth Tydd recently visited the city in relation to the issue.

Police Association president Scott Weber said the restrictions on city-centre hotels had led to a 37per cent reduction in alcohol-related assaults and the government would be caving in to liquor industry interests if they were wound back.

‘‘We will see an increase in glassings, bashings, sexual assault and anti-social behaviour if the Newcastle initiative is weakened,’’ Mr Weber said.

Anti-violence campaigner Tony Brown, who represented about 150 residents in the complaint process that sparked the Newcastle decision, said it was ‘‘incomprehensible how any government for the people could seriously contemplate undoing such a ‘world’s best’ achievement’’.

AHA NSW director of regulations John Green said the fact the city still had five venues on the violent list showed that ‘‘the claimed success is actually a failure and the severe restrictions should be abandoned”.

AHA Newcastle and Hunter president Rolly de With said the Newcastle and Hamilton conditions should be replaced when the new three-strikes policy came into effect.

An Office of Liquor spokesman said it had not received any requests to review the conditions on venues in the CBD.