Premier Colin Barnett yesterday vowed to usher in a new era in Perth's hospitality scene by allowing most restaurants to serve alcohol without insisting a meal is bought.
In a surprise move for a Premier who slapped alcohol restrictions on the Skyshow and has shown little interest in relaxing liquor laws, Mr Barnett said the move recognised Perth's maturing sophistication.
"It's part of saying to Perth, we are growing up, let's be responsible, let's have some of the freedoms that are taken for granted in almost any other city of the world," he said.
Restaurants catering for up to 120 patrons would be eligible for the change to their liquor licence but alcohol would have to be served to a sitting patron and the kitchen remain open.
Another "archaic" regulation in the Premier's sights, if elected, is the insistence that bar staff carry drinks across unlicensed areas, including footpaths, to alfresco areas.
"Anyone who's been to New York or London would realise how silly and outdated it is," he said.
Australian Hotels Association chief executive Bradley Woods said an AHA survey of 350 restaurants showed 95 per cent would serve drinks to non-diners.
Restaurants can already apply to the Director of Liquor Licensing to serve drinks to non-diners but have to pass a public interest test.
"That takes between six and 12 months, it involves lawyers, it costs between $10,000 and $12,000 and, as a result, only 85 or 90 out of 950 restaurants have these extended trading permits," Mr Woods said.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said as racing, gaming and liquor minister in 2006 he had to battle the Liberals to introduce the existing liquor freedoms for restaurants. Labor had pioneered Perth's small bar scene and Mr Barnett was "plagiarising" his ideas.
Labor is so far only pledging to "investigate" easing existing restrictions surrounding restaurants, if elected, as part of a sweep of liquor reforms.
McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth director Mike Daube cautioned that increased access to alcohol was always accompanied by problems.
But restaurateurs Keith Archer and Glenn Bartels, who own Chapels on Whatley in Maylands, said the reforms would boost diversity.
"It's giving people a different option," Mr Archer said. "It would be nice for people who don't want to go to a pub or a bar and good for families who want to come in and don't want to have to order a big meal."There have been a lot of small bars opening, and that is great, but it would be a fantastic idea to include restaurants. Small venues are more relaxed and easier to control."