Renewed calls for 3am last drinks in Melbourne

Health experts are urging Victoria to implement laws restricting the sale of alcohol after 3am in bars and clubs, and in bottle shops after 10pm.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition, a group of health organisations including the Australian Medical Association, are calling for Victoria to adopt the tough measures after they were implemented in NSW last month.

In a statement, President of the AMA Dr Stephen Parnis highlighted the need for urgent alcohol reforms in Victoria in order to “improve public safety and reduce harm”.

Alcohol-related hospital visits represented 93% of emergency department presentations between 2000 and 2010. It has been estimated that alcohol-related harm costs the Victorian economy $4 billion each year.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition’s website says its proposed Victorian reforms are part of a Five Step Action Plan intended to address the harmfulness of binge-drinking culture in Victoria.

Spokesperson for the APC, Sondra Davoren, said licensees have reported the sales of packaged liquor makes it hard to manage people who pre-drink before going to venues.

“ [The proposed reforms] don’t target responsible drinkers or existing venues. What we aim for is a nuanced approach that will have a significant impact on harm at or after 1am, which is when most incidents occur,” she told Catalyst.

It is unclear whether the proposed measures are likely to be successful. A 2am lockout aimed at addressing alcohol-related concerns was trialed in Melbourne in 2008 by the Victorian Labor Government. It was discontinued after three months.

Augusto Braidotti, general manager of Cookie, Revolver Upstairs and The Toff in Town, issued a statement at the time criticising liquor reforms on the grounds that they were “reactionary, ill-considered and dangerous. [Lockouts] will fuel the already dangerous drug business and create an illegal venues market,” he said.

Under the laws already operating in NSW, a 3am curfew restricts the serving of alcohol, and high-alcohol drinks such as doubles are not served after midnight.

The closure of bottle shops at 10pm is aimed at preventing people from becoming intoxicated before or after attending a venue. Sydney venues are also restricted by 1.30am lockouts.

Young people interviewed by Catalyst reported safety concerns about the patrons being forced outside as a result of lockouts.

“[3am] is about the time I’d be heading home,” Alana, 21, a student at Sydney’s Macquarie University, said.

“My issue is how it affects public transport in terms of getting the people locked out of venues home safely.”

Writer Dan Bledwich tweeted “I would challenge anyone to prove how an early morning lockout will improve street violence that starts around dark.”

RMIT student Alice, 22, said “I usually stop drinking by [3am]. Most people I’m with usually do. If you get separated from your friends after the lockout though, that could be a bit harsh.”

A spokesman for Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge told The Age the government released Victoria’s first whole-of-government strategy last year to reduce the impact of alcohol and drug abuse.

Do you think Victoria should adopt NSW’s tough stance on the sale of alcohol? 

By Melissa Di Giacomo
Photograph: Alan Weedon

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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