Licencing conditions in Newcastle have long been an issue of contention.
Since the ''Newcastle Solution'' was implemented back in 2008, there have many voices eager to speak out against any change to the conditions imposed.
Here are the facts so you can make up your own mind.
How our current licensing conditons came about
In 2008, a series of licencing restrictions were imposed on 15 late-trading hotels in the Newcastle CBD following the determination of a disturbance complaint by the Liquor Administration Board under Section 104 of the Liquor Act 1982.
Known variously as the ''Newcastle Model'', ''Newcastle Trial'' or ''Newcastle Solution'', the licence conditions placed upon the licencees of the late-trading hotels in the Newcastle CBD were made up of several different measures.
What were the conditions?
The conditions were stringent and included:
A 1.00am lockout (1.30am for some hotels)
A 3.00am close (3.30am for some hotels)
Drink restrictions after 10.00pm - No shots, no drinks over 30ml alcohol, no RTDs over 5%, no more than four drinks in one transaction
No stock-piling of drinks
Independent audits of alcohol management practices
Sales of alcohol to cease 30 minutes before close
Hotels to use a shared radio network to communicate about problem patrons etc...
Did it work?
Eighteen months after the conditions were imposed, the Bureau of Crime and Statistics and Research (BOSCAR) commissioned a study called The Impact of restricted alcohol availability in Newcastle, to access the crime statistics following the introduction of these new conditions.
Source: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research
As you can see, while the number of assaults on licensed premised declined in the year following the introduction of trading restrictions in 2008, they rose to even higher levels again in following years.
Between 2009 and 2011 the number of assaults in the Newcastle LGA increased by approximately 21% - the largest single increase of any Local Government Areas across NSW.
THE REAL IMPACT - JOBS, PATRONS AND VALUES LOST...
In 2010 an impact assessment was carried out on 14 of the impacted venues and found the following:
One in four hospitality workers had lost their job
Hotel closures, receivership and changes in ownership had taken place
The workforce had decreased by 21.7%
Live music revenue dropped by $1 million per year
Aside from obvious impacts, these numbers also represent a significant decline in patronage - meaning less people went out. Therefore, it stands to reason that if significantly less people are enjoying the Newcastle night-time economy, there will also be less alcohol-related incidents.
The Newcastle Solution is not stopping the occurrence of alcohol-related incidents.
It is stopping people from going out.
Other reasons why incidents decreased from 2011 onwards...
When the number of assaults rose in 2011, hotel owners in Newcastle knew not only was the Newcastle Solution not working, but violence was increasing.
In response, the late-trading hotels together formed the "Newcastle Entertainment Precinct" (NEP).
The NEP then developed a solution to deal with the increase in assaults - a process of banning violent or anti-social patrons from all member hotels.
The result of this strategy was to arrest the rise in recorded assaults with sustained reductions since that period.
SOME ADDITIONAL FACTS...
BOSCAR data identifies that the reductions were greater after the introduction of the NEP than after the introduction of the Newcastle Solution.
The data also shows an exponential decline across the state including comparative areas such as Wollongong and Parramatta - which don't have the restrictions placed upon Newcastle.
These areas reduced their instances of non-domestic assault on licensed premised by improving communications and working closely with police, emergency services and their wider communities.
Source: NSW Bureau of Statistics and Research
It is a fact that assault levels on licensed premises are the lowest levels in NSW since the 1990s.
The Newcastle Solution was introduced in 2008.
By 2011 the incidents of Non-domestic Assault on Licensed Premises had
increased by around 14%
In 2011 a localised solution to ban violent or anti-social patrons from all venues
within the Newcastle Entertainment Precinct was introduced by hotel owners.
In 2012 incidents of assault decreased by 24.1%
The Independant Liquor and Gaming Authority Review
In 2017 the AHA requested the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority review the conditions imposed in 2008, a process set out in the Liquor Act 2000.
Given similar licensing conditions imposed upon Sydney had been reviewed two years after being handed down, the AHA felt it was only fair and lawful that after a decade Newcastle be provided the same opportunity.
The request did not ask for current lock out laws to be removed.
It asked for the following conditions to be reviewed:
Revocation of an outdated radio network
Revocation of plan of management audits
Drink restrictions to commence from 12.00am instead of 10.00pm
Adoptation of cocktail list for cocktails, martinis, single nips and other drinks not designed so as to promote rapid consumption
Uniform lock out time for all venues, the preference being 1.30am