The AHA are crying in their beers

Last night, if you were out and about in Sydney, you may have just heard at various pubs (under the constant dissonance of doof doof music and pokies) members of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) crying in the beers. The reason is that the Iemma government have proposed major changes to NSW licensing laws. The main one being liquor licence fees dropping to between 500 and 2000 dollars. A victory for the people of NSW as well as for Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore who has been pushing for the changes.

A move away from the pokie supported beer barns and to smaller boutique bars is to be welcomed. Of course the AHA are unhappy as they now have some competition. They are already claiming that it will lead to a rise in alcohol related violence. David Elliott, the deputy chief executive of the AHA also has concerns regarding Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) provisions What the AHA forgets is they have been the main culprits in promoting and supporting a drinking culture that facilitates alcohol related problems. And anyone who has been to a busy pub on a Friday or Saturday will note how difficult it is to enforce RSA regulations in large venues.

To belabour a point, what the AHA and others (such as Adam Shand as noted by tigtog), fail to understand is that not everyone who wants a drink needs to also puke and get into a fight in between a flutter on the pokies. The target clientele for the smaller boutique bars will tend towards those that want to avoid such a scene.

There is talk of a Melbourne style bar scene and other plans for new bars are afoot. While that sounds like a grand idea, Sydney should be allowed to develop its own bar culture.

Pubs will still be around as they have their place, especially in smaller communities, and there are still a few pubs that have avoided the pitfalls of other venues. But for many who would like a nice place for a drink on a friday night and not be assaulted by pokies and pissed patrons, change is gonna come.

To celebrate, I think I’ll head to one of my favourite pubs tomorrow for a beer. Note that the pub still has tiled walls, a reminder of the six o’clock swill.

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7 comments on “The AHA are crying in their beers
  1. Liam Hogan says:

    Spare the idealism, Shaun.

    liquor licence fees dropping to between 500 and 2000 dollars. A victory for the people of NSW

    But a bigger victory for the undiscussed elephants in the room; developers like Mirvac and Westfield who’ll have the advantage in the market. Small bars with lots of capital will be competing against the established hotels, undercapitalised small bars are going to get pushed out by outlets with fewer costs, like convenience shops, mobile phone stands and small retailers. Melbourne has its peculiar bar scene because of a) its urban geography and b) its peculiarly middle-class nature.
    I quite enjoy seeing the AHA losing but I very much doubt it’s the “people” who’ve won. I’m not sure how strings of chain bars in shopping centres will be a plus for cosmopolitanism.

  2. Shaun says:

    Liam,

    Yes, Mirvac and Westfield etc may play in the market but I’m skeptical whether they will have a great deal of influence on the industry.

    With the good chance that the red tape will be cut regarding restrictions on live music, quite a few niches will exist that won’t be filled by bigger developers.

    I’m gonna stay idealistic. If I am wrong, I’ll buy you a drink.

  3. tigtog says:

    I’m more with Shaun, Liam. Like the coffeeshop chains, some shopping centre branding of small bars will surely take place. But just like cafes in Sydney, large chunks of the punters will prefer to go to premises with local charm and individual quirks.

    And let’s not overlook the fact that the shopping centre small bars are still going to be more attractive and convenient to a lot of people than the current option of pub, club or nothing, even if they are owned by the megacorps.

  4. “….the AHA are unhappy as they now have some competition.”

    Perhaps this was written by someone who has never set foot in NSW, where for the past 40 years the AHA has been competing on a playing field which is very much tilted against them?

    For the AHA has had to compete with Clubs which are exempt from income tax and on a severely reduced rate of poker machine tax.

  5. Liam Hogan says:

    Well, we will indeed see what changes happen in the Sydney bar market. I’d guess that the major changes are going to be at the very high and fashionable end of the market and at the very very low end of the market. And there, the changes are largely going to be to the yearly profit margin of well-established venues like restaurants and nightclubs.
    Is the red tape regarding noise restrictions in residential areas going to be cut? Give us centralised oversight of local government planning, and then we might see some decentralised nightlife. Until then in the non-CBD it’s cosmopolitanism until 10.30pm weeknights, 11pm Fridays and weekends, don’t wake the yuppies as you leave.
    By the way, Shaun: the Fortune of War? I’m not sure if you’ve ever been around that end of George Street on a Friday or weekend evening, that’d be one of the first places I’d go if I was in the market for someone to throw up on me or for a low-cost punch in the mouth.

  6. Shaun says:

    Liam,

    I’ve never had a problem with the area immediately ’round the Fortune nor with patrons in the pub itself. It attracts a nice mix of pleasant folk.

    Now if you are talking about certain establishments a little to the north along George then no argument from me.

  7. Bryn says:

    Can’t say I’m that concerned about whether more small bars crop up or not, being solidly within the big-noisy-pub demographic, but if reductions in licence fees mean prices at pubs drop (we can only hope), then go Clover.

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