Drinks restrictions lifted for small bars

A number of drinks restrictions have been lifted for small bars in Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross, Minister for Racing Paul Toole announced today.

From Sunday, these venues will have greater flexibility in the late night drinks they can serve, and will no longer have to serve spirits with mixers after midnight. Small bars will also be able to sell cocktails not listed on the menu after midnight.

“Those who appreciate fine whisky in a relaxed, intimate small bar setting would sooner go without than be forced to dilute their favourite drop,” Mr Toole said.

“Bartenders are rightly proud of their trade, and by removing this restriction, we are encouraging Sydney’s small bars to innovate and flourish. Small bars are adding to diversity of Sydney’s nightlife, allowing patrons to relax and socialise in an intimate and sophisticated setting.”

According to the NSW Government, the changes recognise small bars in Sydney have good compliance records and a low risk of alcohol-related violence, as their lower patron limit makes it easier for staff to monitor patron behaviour. Liquor & Gaming NSW will monitor the changes to ensure no rise in alcohol-related violence.

The changes follow the statewide increase in the small bar patron limit from 60 to 100 and extended trading for small bars in the CBD and Kings Cross from midnight to 2am.

Other changes to liquor regulation include the implementation of the new ‘Three Strikes’ disciplinary scheme whereby strikes are attached to licensees rather than to the premises; An extension of the liquor licence freeze in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross until June 2018, but giving venues greater flexibility to refurbish their premises; and Changes to improve the effectiveness of the Minor Sanctions Scheme targeting venues that serve minors, and the annual liquor licence fee system.

The spirits sector has welcomed the announcement, with the move to lift spirits restrictions from venues that contribute significantly to Sydney’s night time economy supported by major spirits producers, bartenders, small bar operators and craft distillers alike.

David Smith, Managing Director of Diageo Australia and Chair of Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia said: “We’ve been seeing cultural change in the way Australians consume alcohol for some time now. A rising premiumisation trend and consumers choosing to drink better rather than more has seen them embrace cocktail culture.

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction for much needed liquor reform and equal treatment of spirits in line with wine and beer. A patron who wants to sip on a neat serve of a wonderful whisky or bourbon, or enjoy a fantastically crafted cocktail, will again be able to order it after midnight in their favourite small bar – just like they can order a schooner of beer or a glass of wine.”

Martin O’Sullivan, Chair of the Small Bars Association and owner of Grasshopper Bar, said: “This is an important step and we welcome the NSW Government’s announcement. Small bars are revolutionising the way people drink, creating a more sophisticated setting for people who want to unwind. Some of the best small bars in the world are here in Sydney.

It never made sense in a global city like this to explain to a customer they could only have a nip of whisky past midnight if I mixed it with coke. Small bars specialise in premium spirits, so these changes will help our industry grow and contribute to a vibrant but safe night-time economy.”

Alex Dowd, owner of Tio’s Cervecería, said: “This is a huge step forward towards a more mature view on Sydney.”

Harriet Leigh, Head of Hospitality at Archie Rose Distilling Co, said: “We at Archie Rose are overjoyed at this step in the right direction towards more civilised and mature drinking legislation.

“Plenty of evidence suggests that people are drinking less, but drinking better. While our local distilling industry goes from strength to strength both domestically and internationally, and members of the public become more discerning with their spirits, it had seemed like regulation wasn’t keeping up with the times. Hopefully this latest step towards civility is indicative of a change in approach to drinking culture.”

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