Liquor licence fees: increases sting Ballarat businesses

BALLARAT district venues say rises in liquor-licence fees will hurt their businesses and do little to curb alcohol-fuelled violence.Hotels, bars and even bed and breakfasts have been hit by the increases, which came into effect on January 1.The changes were introduced by the State Government to curb alcohol-related violence by putting more police on the streets. Blue Note Piano Bar co-owner Mike Kontor said the extra fees would not address the problem. He said his venue paid an extra $800 this year for its licence to stay open until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights."My objection is, what's the point of it? It doesn't stop people getting drunk or binge drinking. They're (the government) just making more money," Mr Kontor said. "How does a more expensive liquor licence decrease violence?"He said his bar would no longer trade on Sundays or Anzac Day because the extra fees to open at those times were too much for the business to bear.Australian Hotels Association country vice-president Ian Larkin said smaller pubs would come under pressure to meet their licence fees, which are due this month. "Overall, it's still just another expense the hotel has to wear. Most of the smaller venues have been forced to pay about $2000 extra," Mr Larkin saidUnder the new risk-based fee structure, those venues that open after 1am pay the highest fees.Mr Larkin said late-night venues would have to pass the fees on to patrons."They've got to get their money back somehow. The only way is to increase their prices or their door charges."The owner of Daylesford's Forget-Me-Not Cottages, Maggie Nightingale, said her business had opted not to renew its licence, which would have gone up from $97 to $397. Government spokeswoman Rebecca Harrison said alcohol-related violence was a problem across the state and the increase in fees would help pay for the recruitment of an extra 120 police. "Before the new fees were introduced, there was a significant shortfall between the revenue generated by fees and the actual cost of regulating and policing licensed venues," Ms Harrison said. "This shortfall was paid for by the rest of the Victorian community."