ACT abandons lockout plans

By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government has announced that it will no longer pursue the imposition of a 3am closure of venues and heftier licensing fees, as implemented in New South Wales and Queensland.

Lockout laws were first considered for the capital territory in mid-2015 – with a lockout time of 3am, or more expensive licensing fees for any venues that wanted to sell alcohol after that time.

Outcry from the ACT’s hospitality industry, associations and public has gathered momentum in the last six months, and has been heard by some of Canberra’s politicians. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has reported that the ACT Greens have publicly opposed the lockout laws, resulting in the Government scrapping the proposal, as without the Greens it would not be able to pass the legislation.

AHA ACT has welcomed the Government’s reversal of policy, acknowledging that it had listened to public opinion.

“Whilst we support many of the proposals outlined in the Building on Liquor Reform White Paper, penalising a small number of venues through increased licence fees and changes to opening hours is not the answer to decrease misuse of alcohol in the ACT,” stated Jo Broad, AHA ACT’s branch general manager.

“We thank the ACT Government for taking into consideration the community’s response to the White Paper. We, as an industry, are committed to ensuring a safe and vibrant night life in the ACT, for all to enjoy.”

Frank Condi, owner of CoCu group, one of the ACtT largest hospitality groups, is cautiously optimistic about the changes, but suggests that the Governement may once again change its decision after the upcoming general election in October.

“I think it’s a good step forward, but I’d still like some certainty around it from the Government,” Condi stated.

Condi is also encouraged by the Governement’s latest inclusion of community stakehodlers within the larger conversation of licensed trading.

“I think the positive about it is that we’re all on the same page in regards to making positive changes. I think what was put on the table [lockouts] was a negative from our point of view, and we were never really consulted, so it’s good now that there’s actually people wanting to have a discussion about it to find something that works for everybody.”

Broad also stated that AHA ACT looks forward to continue working with the Government and community in an effort to reduce instances of alcohol-related violence.

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