Subiaco’s bid to revive its retail and hospitality precinct is under attack, with critics warning a proposed new liquor licensing policy could force anyone trying to open a bar to spend tens of thousands of dollars with no guarantee of council support.
The Australian Hotels Association of WA, leading liquor licensing lawyer John Prior and City of Subiaco councillor Mark Burns say the council risks creating extra red tape and costs by duplicating work best carried out by the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor.
Rather than encouraging more small bar and restaurant operators into the city, they argue the proposed policy could drive them further away.
Subiaco council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on a swag of changes aimed at reviving the precinct, of which the liquor licensing policy forms a key plank.
But the policy, which has scrapped unpopular restrictions on small bars close to the high street, has been criticised for the inclusion of a requirement that would require applicants to produce a so-called public interest assessment.
In most local governments applicants are only required to produce a PIA when applying to the Department for a liquor licence, having already secured planning approval.
Mr Prior said he was concerned an applicant could spend well over $10,000 on a PIA only to have council reject the development application.
Mr Burns, who will put forward an alternate policy, said he was concerned the new policy would be even more draconian than the old one.
“They’re seeking to take over the duties of the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor and to step in between the applicant and the Liquor Act of 1988,” Mr Burns said.
“If the council accepts this policy I believe it will be the last nail in the coffin of what arguably is already a dead village,” he said.
“If this policy is adopted there’s no doubt in my mind that people who are in the hospitality industry or are considering getting involved in the hospitality industry will simply bypass Subiaco and go to Leederville, Mt Lawley and the City of Perth.”
AHA WA deputy chief executive Paul Brockschlager said the organisation was concerned the move meant more red tape.
“The Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor is the regulator of liquor licensing in WA,” he said.
“They have experienced staff who are equipped to decide what is in the public’s interest. It doesn’t need to be done twice.
“Having an applicant go through this process twice adds additional time, money and resources and is unnecessary.
“All levels of government should be working with small businesses to make life easier. We need to reduce the red tape and administrative burdens that are keeping licensees behind desks instead of providing hospitality to patrons.”
Subiaco chief executive Stephen Tindale defended the proposed policy, saying it was useful to consider the PIA at the development application stage because it offered an opportunity to resolve “any potential issues early on”.
“If (the policy is) adopted for advertising, public comment will be invited for a period of at least 21 days and the city will also consult with relevant stakeholders,” he said.
“A further report will be referred to council with recommendations incorporating any public comment received during the public advertising period.”
A Department spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment on an individual local government’s planning approval requirements.