POLICE have slammed The Occidental Hotel’s bid to permanently open the upstairs bar until 3am when a 12-month trial ends on February 4.
They say a lack of proactive security and the behaviour of drunk patrons is a recipe for disaster and will increase alcohol-related assaults in the central business district.
Orange City Council staff have recommended councillors give the hotel the green light at a meeting next Tuesday despite a lengthy written objection from Canobolas Local Area Command licensing officer Senior Constable Ben Hill.
Senior Constable Hill said 11 assaults had been linked to the hotel since late-night trading started upstairs on June 8.
Eight of the assaults were “directly attributed” to the hotel, including an assault with grievous bodily harm that broke a patron’s jaw, another where a police officer was assaulted, and an assault where a woman was left unconscious after she was kicked in the face.
Senior Constable Hill said the high numbers of serious assaults could see the hotel declared one of the state’s most violent.
Undercover police identified “several major issues” relating to “excessive intoxication and security” when they visited the hotel on Saturday, January 12. Police observed one drunk female patron being dragged from the DJ area by two males, according to the submission.
“The covert operatives identified that there was no monitoring of patrons by Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) staff,” Senior Constable Hill said.
“Licensed security at the premises had almost no involvement with patrons with some security more interested in engaging in conversation with particular females rather than working.”
But the hotel’s general manager Don Scholte defended the RSA staff and said he was pleased council staff had recommended the 3am trading be approved.
He said he was surprised by the findings of the police’s covert audit.
“Since July last year we’ve had 110 police through the venue during late-night trading and they only identified a couple of issues,” he said.
“We’ve had 20,000 people through the venue [since June] so you have to take everything in context.
“It’s easy to focus on the negative but the positive is that the vast majority of patrons come back week after week and they wouldn’t if there was a problem.”
Police criticised the hotel’s management committed to the Orange Liquor Accord.
But Mr Scholte said the hotel was an effective member because they voluntarily followed the accord’s conditions and 90 per cent of the rules enforced on the state’s more violent venues, including serving drinks in plastic cups and having a ‘no-shots’ policy.