ORANGE City Council’s approval last week for The Occidental Hotel to extend trading hours upstairs sparked an ugly debate between the licensee, council and the police.
Canobolas Local Area Command even went to the extent of showing councillors dramatic video footage of an assault taking place outside the pub on January 13.
The issue sparked commentary in the community about late-night trading, binge drinking and violence in Orange. In light of the negative attitude towards late-night venues, The Occidental Hotel general manager Don Scholte invited Central Western Daily journalist Nicole Kuter to spend a Saturday night at the hotel to report on the good, bad and the ugly of what it is really like in the industry.
Today’s story is the first in a series of what she saw between 11.30pm and 4am on Saturday, February 9.
WE hear all too often the problems associated with alcohol-related violence but it is not until you witness it first hand do you realise how quickly a trouble-free evening can end up with someone in hospital and someone facing criminal charges.
I spent four hours at the Occidental Hotel on Saturday night where I witnessed the lengths staff go to to protect themselves and patrons, yet despite their best efforts an assault occurred and police resorted to using capsicum spray to stop the fight.
I was shocked how quickly the night can go so wrong especially because up until 2.45am it had gone relatively well.
About 10 people were refused entry before the 1am curfew for various reasons including not showing identification and having too much to drink.
Most left without trouble, however they all claimed they had only had two or three drinks.
Slurred words, stumbling and rolling eyes suggested otherwise.
“Nah mate I’m right,” was the most common response.
Girls navigated the streets in shoes that went for miles while men dressed down, right down, to the point where their pants were so low their designer undergarments could be seen.
Gone are the days where you had to wear dress shoes, dress pants and a collared shirt to go out on the town. These days sneakers are often three times the price of dress shoes and designer tank tops would send the average student broke for two weeks.
I saw all kinds of stunts pulled by hopeful drunks as they tried to convince staff that they had only had the standard two drinks, yet the RSA marshals were on their game for the most part.
Before the assault, the most disturbing thing I saw was the way staff were treated by patrons.
One man was asked to leave and he thought the best way to convince security otherwise was to hurl abuse at them, threaten them and loiter out the front.
I witnessed an impressive display from security when they caught a man who had snuck in a full bottle of vodka.
The genius was spotted in the beer garden, by security in another room, swigging from the bottle.
Inside the pub, the atmosphere was vibrant, people seemed happy, there was no tension, I saw no aggression yet somehow it all turned sour.
That is what is so scary.
Saturday at the Oxo ...
11.30pm - A security guard spots a man drinking straight from a bottle of vodka he had snuck inside the pub. Security approaches the man, talks to him, shakes hands with him and he leaves without incident.
11.30 - Three people refused entry for having too much to drink.
11.33 - 55 patrons in the pub.
12am - 113 patrons inside the pub. Staff gear themselves for the “surge period”.
12.25am - About 30 people head towards the pub.
12.45am - 337 people in the pub.
1am - Lockout with 411 people in the venue.
2.15am - Security asks a patron to leave because he’s had enough to drink. The man hurls profanities at staff and accuses security of being overzealous. He refuses to leave the venue and hangs around outside. Staff offer him a taxi, he refuses. Staff call police. Police attend and convince him to leave.
2.25am - Uniformed police walk through the venue.
2.30am - A tap is broken off outside the pub and a plumber has to be called to stop the flow of water into the car park. The duty manager suspects someone has jumped on the tap to attempt to gain entry through a window. Dance floor bar closed.
2.40am - Police use capsicum spray on two men involved in a fight down the block from the venue.
2.45am - Front bar closed.
3am - Pub closed and about 100 people are directed across the road.
3.30am - Police take one man to hospital with facial injuries.