Hoteliers' sobering thoughts on risk-based liquor licence fees

ORANGE'S hoteliers are warning that new risk-based liquor licence fees could mean less money for sporting clubs, as venues try to cut costs. 

Members of Orange Liquor Accord met on Tuesday to discuss the state government’s planned changes, which will introduce a yearly fee for all venues, calculated on risk factors.

“To be totally honest I think it’s more a revenue raising exercise,” said Bill Kelly, head of the accord and the owner of Kelly’s Rugby Hotel.

“The opinion was that it’s a new impost on everyone when we’re trying to keep costs down.”

Criteria for determining the yearly fee include the capacity of the venue, its location and its opening hours, with extra costs for hotels and clubs that have a poor history of compliance.

“Most hotels in Orange have extended hours ... so we’re all going to be paying,” said Mr Kelly.

The fees range from a base of between $100 and $500 a year, which about three quarters of the state’s licensees are expected to have to pay, and can potentially climb to $24,500 a year for the riskiest pubs and clubs.

Mr Kelly said he estimated that hotels in Orange would have to find at least a collective $100,000 under the new rules, and that sponsorships for sporting organisations could be under threat.

“We’re going to ask the heads of the sporting groups in Orange to attend a meeting where we will explain the implications of these licence fees,”  Mr Kelly said.

OUR SAY: RISK-BASED FEES IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT

He wanted to impress upon the sporting club presidents that antisocial behaviour from their members is unacceptable, and that incidents could see costs for hotels rise.

“When we’re all trying to keep costs down that money is not going to be available for sponsorships.”

State member for Orange Andrew Gee says he doesn’t believe pubs and clubs would be driven to reduce their sponsorship money.

“I would be very surprised if any sponsorships were reduced because of these laws,”  Mr Gee said.

“There have been many issues of alcohol-related violence in and around Orange. You’ve got to keep in mind that there is a huge cost in the community,” he said.

“The community expects that we have a very rigorous licensing system.”

Tony McClure, licensee of the Royal Hotel in Lords Place, says hoteliers are being blamed for the bad behaviour of others.

“Every time something goes wrong they turn around and blame the hoteliers. We don’t want trouble, we don’t want any of that happening,” Mr McClure said.

“Sporting bodies, charities that you support, they’re all going to suffer, everyone’s going to suffer.”

Mr Gee says the changes are needed to contribute to funding for inspectors, who enforce existing licensing rules.

“If you’re going to have a rigorous licensing system, the money for that has to come from somewhere.”

Mr McClure says patrons need to be aware that their behaviour can have significant implications for the hotels they like to visit.

“People don’t get it, they just don’t get it . . . it’s time they woke up. If they want somewhere to go out and have a social time they’re really going to have to pull their head in.”

The changes will be introduced in July.

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