Queensland’s nightlife could cease to operate after 3am every night, if a new recommendation to the state government passes.
The recommendation put forth to the Newman government has come about in an attempt to reduce alcohol-related violence.
By the end of the year, the government will decide on the matter, which would wind back club and pub operating hours to 1am lockouts and 3am closing times. The possible changes mirror Newcastle’s recent model, which, in the first couple of years, saw a 37 percent reduction in alcohol-related violence said the Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie.
“Trading hours and lockouts were part of the expert panel review because we were interested in the views of Queenslanders,” Mr Bleijie said.
Members of a panel Mr Bleijie formed to help overhaul the state's liquor licensing first suggested the idea and admired Newcastle’s changes.
“Newcastle's model is absolutely fantastic, we've looked at that and researched that and it's a clear indication to us that it's working,” acting General President of the Queensland Police, Shane Maxwell said. “Venues close earlier, people get home earlier, and they're happier.”
The issue has drawn contrasts in opinion. Members of the public against ideas to change the current system have taken their campaign to social media, getting the support of the public and sharing alternative ideas.
One such campaigner, Nick Braban (Chairman of the Valley Liquor Accord, and Chilliwow owner), said if passed, the recommendation could cause more problems than it would solve.
“It's a very complicated issue. I think we should continue with maintaining the strong, legislated structure that we have currently in Queensland.”
Mr Braban drew attention to the problems the lockout system posed. “Our group is not in favour of the lockout, but the current system is still a lot better than what is being proposed,” he said.
“Forcing people out onto the streets at 3am without services to deal with them will lead to problems that we already experience due to lack of transport options. That's where all the problems tend to happen — out on the streets where people aren't supervised. It puts a great strain on police, ambulances and other services to deal with it,”
As a member of the Queensland police force, Mr Maxwell told of his experiences in the face of alcohol-fuelled violence.
“It's affected police greatly because of the increase in violence that occurs. It's not only affecting police, it's affecting the public in general.” Mr Maxwell said the current system allowed people to “fuel up” on alcohol at home earlier in the night, and stay out later in the streets.
“We're having a number of young people that are getting out of cabs, absolutely blind drunk and collapsing on the ground within five minutes. They're fuelling themselves up before they get to the city and topping themselves up once they've been there. I think it's something that we've got to try; a young person's life is too valuable.”
Casablanca club owner and President of the Caxton Street Development Association, Sarosh Mehta, said he was afraid transport would be an issue if any sort of move was made to change pubs and clubs operating hours.
“If there was any move towards that type of legislation, it would have to come in line with public transport,” he said.
“Not everybody closes at the same time. If it goes to a universal 3am closure across the state — it’s a level playing field. Everybody closes at the same time and everybody's going to be out on the street at the same time. The first transport is at 5am, so what happens for those two hours; do they hang around in the street? Is it safe? It's a recipe for some concern.”
Mr Mehta said there were other ways to encourage punters to go out earlier.
“Less red tape, less restrictions. Let's think this through and not just say ‘if we do this it's going to fix everything’, because that's not how things work,” he said.