A “carrot and stick” system would be introduced for liquor licensing in NSW, with minors allowed into small bars before midnight under a proposed state government bill.
The draft Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill 2020 aims to jump-start Sydney’s economy when the coronavirus pandemic finally ends.
It forms the second stage of the Coalition’s liquor law reforms after Sydney’s controversial lockout laws were lifted in January everywhere except Kings Cross.
Investment Minister Stuart Ayres says COVID-19 has “hit the hospitality industry hard and fast”.
“We recognise the importance of streamlining the previously complicated legislation to make it easier for industry to get back on their feet as social-distancing restrictions ease,” Mr Ayres said on Monday.
“There is now clearly a light at the end of the tunnel for our hospitality sector and this will give them hope for the future.”
The state government is calling for feedback on the bill, which includes an incentive and demerit points system for venues.
Under the changes, demerits would be handed out for serious breaches of liquor laws or serious violence or safety issues and would automatically expire after three years.
For non-club licences, if a venue has four or five demerit points connected to it, the venue’s liquor licence could be suspended for up to seven days.
If it has six or more the licence could be suspended for up to 14 days.
Venues will also pay a one-off loading of $4000 for each demerit point connected to its licence as part of the next annual liquor licence fee.
However, discounts on annual liquor licence fees will be introduced to encourage well-run venues.
The draft bill also proposes allowing minors into small bars until midnight if they are with a responsible adult.
Small bars would also be able to apply for minors to be in their venue without a responsible adult during certain hours – for example if the bar offers retail services appropriate for those who are underage.
Certain restrictions on the type of music or instruments and the number of musicians or live acts that can perform at venues would also be removed under the bill.
The Sydney Business Chamber says the proposed changes are “very encouraging”.
“The draft exposure bill outlines a positive framework of reducing red tape and making it easier for the likes of small bars and family-friendly night-time venues to open and prosper right across Greater Sydney, not just the CBD,” executive director Katherine O’Regan said in a statement.
“Removing some of the outdated restrictions on what type of live music you can play in a bar or pub, and making it easier to get both a liquor licence and planning approval, are great steps in getting Sydney ready to reopen after dark.”
It’s expected the bill will be introduced to Parliament in the second half of 2020.