Liquor licensing fees ‘revenue raisers’

Some Queensland venues have unknowingly served alcohol illegally because of problems with the processing of licence payments.
The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation has been accused of using annual fees for revenue raising instead of implementing promised service improvements. yesterday revealed more than 1000 Queensland venues had their licences suspended and unknowingly served alcohol illegally because of problems with the processing of payments.

Industry figures have said liquor licensing has failed to deliver the services it promised in return for the fees, which were introduced in 2009 and last year raised $18 million.

Casablanca owner Sarosh Mehta, also the President of the Caxton Street Precinct Liquor Accord, was involved in the fee consultation process and said the only businesses who benefited were in Fortitude Valley and Surfers Paradise.

“The explicit reason given for the charges was the later the trading hours the more services are required such as police and ambulance officers,” he said.

“Nothing much is happening at five in the afternoon, but between four and five in the morning is when those services are needed.

“We reluctantly accepted that. We agree issues occur later at night. They have not delivered, other than creating Drink Safe.”

Mr Mehta said the consultation process had been good and the Drink Safe precincts were “great” but the vast majority of club and hotel owners in the state had not seen any improvements in services.

“I’m not saying turn the state into a Drink Safe precinct; that is impractical,” he said.

“But it would be nice to see additional services rolled out in other areas, services such as a bigger police presence.”

Chalk Hotel general manager Jason Titman said he had seen no alcohol education campaigns or more efficient service from Liquor Licensing.

“The immediate suspicion that the fee was just government revenue-raising was proven true,” he said.

“There is no evidence of better service from Liquor Licensing although they do have more compliance officers.

“So the industry is being slugged twice, once with the fee that then pays for the compliance officer to come in and fine us.

“I’m disappointed the money has not been put back into the future of the industry.”

Mr Titman said it was hard to be harsh on Liquor Licensing and blamed the state government for “heavily controlling” them.

Numerous other industry insiders agreed services had not improved but did not want to be named.

A Liquor Licensing spokeswoman said the fees “ensure the liquor industry plays its part in contributing to the cost of regulating”.

“The annual fees fund the liquor regulatory responsibilities of the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation, the liquor activities of the Office of Regulatory Policy and a range of harm minimisation initiatives, including community education and marketing campaigns to encourage a more responsible attitude towards the consumption of alcohol in the community,” she said in a written statement.

“When the fees were introduced, an additional 10 OLGR officers were also funded to provide additional support, particularly in regional areas.”

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