Integrated approach for vibrant nightlife

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Patron scanning is a move in the right direction, writes Rolly de With.

FOR years now we have been debating the future of Newcastle’s nightlife and the failure of draconian measures against late-night premises to make any lasting changes in the culture of violence on our streets.

Simply blaming licensed venues for every problem isn’t working; we need to be more proactive.

That’s why the Australian Hotels Association congratulates the five Newcastle inner-city hotels which have formed a coalition of concerned owners and operators to launch an initiative that scans patron identifications and bans troublesome customers from all five premises.

The Newcastle Entertainment Precinct is a company established by five major late-night entertainment venues within the Newcastle CBD. It includes Fannys, MJ Finnegan’s, Queens Wharf Brewery, the Cambridge Hotel and the King Street Hotel.

As part of the “venues united” approach, penalties for offenders range from being barred for three months to being barred indefinitely. This may not only be imposed at the venue where the incident occurred, but at all five venues.

We know that reducing the trading hours of hotels and imposing restrictions on businesses did not change the behaviour of patrons visiting our city.

What occurred instead was the reduced vibrancy of our city’s nightlife – a reduced number of venues providing entertainment including live performances.

Hotels are part of the community.

We all want a safe, fun and vibrant city that has a variety of entertainment options. The night-time economy is one piece in the puzzle, but an integral piece to the overall image of the city.

The culture of antisocial behaviour, preloading and excessive drinking in Newcastle is unacceptable and it has to change.

Newcastle and Hamilton licensees are committed to a zero-tolerance approach to alcohol- induced violence and know that patrons are feeling safer now more than ever in these establishments.

The Australian Hotels Association questions the validity of the data that suggests that Newcastle is more violent than Kings Cross.

The continual smearing of Newcastle as a “violent city” does nothing for our city’s image and must stop.

The recently introduced co-operative banning initiative is another positive step towards finally bringing about cultural change in Newcastle.

We need to send a clear message that it is not OK to go out to get drunk and start causing trouble.

Personal accountability is the answer to bringing about social change and altering the attitude towards excessive consumption of alcohol.

The Australian Hotels Association believes excessive enforcements on licensed premises and patrons will result in a lack of vibrancy in our city at night. We share the same goal of a more diverse, safer and inviting evening economy, but believe that blaming the pubs is a failed strategy. Have a look at what’s happened in areas like Wollongong and Manly, where the community works together on these issues. We can do the same thing in Newcastle.

There is a positive outlook starting to appear for local businesses doing their part to make Newcastle a safe and vibrant place to visit.

The Australian Hotels Association is encouraged to see Newcastle City councillors supporting more live entertainment venues. Unfortunately, they couldn’t agree on the effectiveness of CCTV as a further deterrent to violence and antisocial behaviour.

We are not surprised by the Newcastle Herald poll on Tuesday, July 10, which asked: “Will the pub ban system reduce violence in the Newcastle CBD?”

Up to 69.7 per cent of respondents answered, “Yes, zero tolerance for trouble makers is the way to go”. Only 30.3 per cent answered, “No, earlier closing times, is the only way to prevent alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour”.

Newcastle licensees have united for a safer city. We applaud this local initiative which we believe will bring about cultural change in Newcastle.

There now needs to be a city-wide integrated approach involving Newcastle City Council, transport providers, police, Newcastle Entertainment Precinct traders and the community to work together to make Newcastle a proud destination for working, business, living, learning and entertainment, regardless of it being day or night.

Rolly de With is the president of the

Newcastle and Hunter Australian

Hotels Association.

Author: Rolly de With
Date: 17/07/2012
Words: 667
Source: NCH
Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: News
Page: 1