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Pubs fight to survive
Paddington Ale house family owners, Neil Randall and sons, Sam, Jon and Ben in the main bar area. Picture: Guy Magowan/The West Australian

Suburban hotels are fighting to maintain their traditional role in the Perth market, according to a veteran publican.

Once the dominant social outlet in WA, hotels are facing attacks on numerous fronts, including restrictive liquor laws, angry neighbours and escalating costs.

Traditional family-run hotels will battle to survive, according to Neil Randall, who this year celebrates 25 years as the licensee of Paddington Ale House in Mt Hawthorn.

Mr Randall has decided to speak out because he is tired of seeing the industry branded as the "bad guys" and wants to keep operating the hotel so his three adult sons can stay in the industry.

The Paddington, which will celebrate its 80th birthday on November 24 with the opening of a 10-year time capsule, was "a good corporate neighbour", Mr Randall said.

And he gestures to a wall of plaques and awards dating back to 2001 which commend the hotel for excellence in service.

"When I took over the hotel, this section of Mt Hawthorn was pretty much dead," Mr Randall, who points to a thriving commercial area west of the premises to the post office on Scarborough Beach Road, said.

"We were the catalyst for the redevelopment of this area. The Paddo has become a destination."

But that is part of the problem - licensed for about 500 patrons, crowd control and noise were the hotel's biggest issues, said Mr Randall, who insists his views are his own, despite being president of the WA branch of Australian Hotels Association for the past eight years.

"We have entertainment seven nights a week but we've all ready given up our 1am licence and close at midnight," he said.

"The police Liquor Enforcement Unit comes in here at quarter to 12 and wants us to stop serving but I have a licence to midnight. Then the law insists I clear the bars by 12.15.

"It's the same for the other pubs and it's madness. Within a 10km radius of here, if you take in, say, Subiaco, Northbridge, Mr Lawley and Leederville, there are suddenly 5000 to 10,000 people on the streets at the same time trying to find public transport home.

"Patrons should be allowed to leave in good time as they finish their drinks. People would be more conservative and spread out evenly."

Mr Randall's views are supported by other industry veterans such as Michael Monaghan and Murray Quinlivan.

Mr Monaghan, whose family-run Subiaco Hotel does not experience the same problems as the Paddington because it is in a central entertainment district, sees bad crowd behaviour as a cultural issue.

"We (Australians) probably drink too much," he said after just returning from a four-week holiday in Europe, mainly in France and Spain. "It's a more liberal attitude there and they spill out on to the streets without too many problems. But it's a different culture. They do behave themselves."

Mr Quinlivan, whose family runs the Ocean Beach Hotel in Cottesloe, believes social and drinking habits have changed for the worse.

"It's different from the old days when the individual took responsibility for his actions," he said. "Now the onus is being put on us."

Mr Randall said he had employed the same security firm for 10 years and it was also responsible for ensuring peace and quiet in the neighbourhood.

"The pub's been here for 80 years and many of the young couples in the area moved here knowing it was a hotel," he said.

"More than 90 per cent of them are happy with the way we operate. It is the same two or three neighbours who complain all the time.

"There is an open telephone line to the security guards and an open telephone line to the hotel."

Mr Randall believes the hotel industry has "really tidied up" over the past six or seven years since the responsible serving of alcohol was introduced. Proof of this was the reduction in the number of violent incidents inside and directly outside hotels, he said.

"It's got to come to where police and other authorities start working with publicans instead of being heavy-handed," Mr Randall said. Did you know? 80 The number of years the Paddington has been serving beers in Mt Hawthorn