Obs says no to extended trading hours

Stones occupies the upper level of this building in Lower Main Road, Observatory.

It will be up to the Liquor Licensing Tribunal to decide whether an Observatory pool-bar’s licence to sell alcohol until 4am should be renewed, after sub-council turned down its application to do so.

Ward councillor Patrick Chapple says Sub-council 16 does not support the application by Stones, which appeared on the sub-council’s agenda on Monday.

The bar is licensed to trade from 1pm until 4am, Mondays to Saturdays and on Sundays from 1pm to 2am.

If Stones can’t get the tribunal to grant the renewal, it will only be able to sell liquor until 2am, according to Mr Chapple.

Several civic associations and the police have opposed the application to renew the licence in its current form.

In a report submitted to sub-council, Woodstock police’s Warrant Officer Suzan Muller notes that crime had spiked between 2.30am and 3.30am since Stones started alcohol later.

And in the past year, she says, there had been 13 cases of theft, two assaults, one case of assault with intent to grievous bodily harm reported on the premises, and two robberies and one hijacking reported by people leaving the premises.

Observatory Civic Association (OCA) chairwoman Carolyn Neville says in the report that there should be no liquor trading beyond 2am in the neighbourhood as residents were woken up by revellers making their way home and by people shouting in the street, vomiting and urinating in public areas.

If one business traded till 4am it would set a precedent for others, she warns.

Also in the report, Observatory Neighbourhood Watch (ONW) vice chairman Howard Richman says the extended trading hours made it harder to patrol the suburb.

“Having bars open until 4am means an increased level of persons on the street, either making them potential targets of crime or with the intent of committing crime.”

But, also in the report, Georgina McCloughan, the franchisee of Stones, Observatory, says no link between crime and late-night trading has been shown. “Crime has been cited as a problem in the area, but we submit that this is a problem in all suburbs,” she says.

Ms McCloughan notes the Observatory Improvement District(OBSID) raised concerns about organised crime and drink spiking, yet Stones, she says, has a zero-tolerance drug policy which is actively enforced.

According to the sub-council report, neighbouring businesses have not objected to the extension. Nor did resident Dominik Petermann, who lives less than a kilometre from the bar.

“Stones is an intrinsic part of the Observatory culture,” she says, “and is an excellent example of how diverse and community-orientated Observatory is.”

A date has not yet been set for when the item will appear on the tribunal’s agenda.