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An independent study into nightlife-district-related violence has shown that restrictions on the late-night sale of alcohol and a 1am lockout on weekends in the central Newcastle suburb of Hamilton have failed to prevent young people from flogging the piss out of each other.
In 2012, it was ruled that the CBD venues of Newcastle were banned from supplying patrons with shots, most pre-mixed drinks and drinks with more than one nip of spirits or liqueurs after 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The venues have also been required to turn away punters at 1am on Saturdays and Sundays.
Hailed as a successful prototype by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell, the lock-out laws in Newcastle provided the blueprint for a similar operation in the Sydney suburb of King’s Cross and surrounds.
However, it seems O’Farrell may have jumped the gun in the implementing these same laws in Sydney. With Newcastle police, publicans and anti-violence campaigners scratching their heads in confusion as the assaults and brawling continues despite restrictions.
The restrictions, which were brought in by The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, ruled that the strict trading conditions were to apply directly to troubled Newcastle venues.
Authority chairman Chris Sidoti said there was a ‘‘reasonable basis’’ for implementing the new laws in 2012, however they have done little to curb the brawling in Newcastle since then.
“Maybe Newy wasn’t the best place to trial these kind of laws… these kids are unique.. A blue-collar town full of wild boys and girls. They love surfing, footy, drinking and brawling”
“I mean if you take one of those things away, then they just focus on something else. I dare say the violence has increased without the grog!” says Sidoti.
Newcastle Police proposed the original discussion, arguing similarly to Hunter New England Health that the restrictions should be implemented to prevent high levels of alcohol harm. However it seems the kids are just naturally violent, with the rates steadying back to where they were prior the operation and occasionally rising.
The region has three ‘‘level one’’ venues on NSW name-and-shame list for most violent venues: MJ Finnegans, Fannys, and the Cambridge Hotel, which were already subject to the Liquor Administration Board decision of 2008 that imposed stringent conditions on Newcastle pubs.
Newcastle anti-violence campaigner Ted Moseley said the Hamilton decision was welcomed in 2012 and appeared to be a victory for common sense, but now he’s not so sure.
“I don’t know about the Cross but this hasn’t done sh*t in Newcastle… These kids really are something else. They are pretty tough up here and are generally looking for a stink at all times. Drunk or not.”