Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents SCOOP AUTUMN 2010 79
Anthony Hilton sits on a leather
sofa at the back of his new small
bar in Scarborough and shakes his
head. He is glad to have the doors
finally open and a steady flow
of patrons coming through them. But it s been a
long, hard two-year battle.
In 2008 father and son Jim and Patrick Ryan
took on the lease of the old Imax theatre in Lake
Street, Northbridge, with the intention of opening
a function centre for corporate clients, complete
with high-tech security. After a year battling to
prove they were not another nightclub and an
estimated $650,000 in lost business, in December
they were finally granted what they believe is WA s
most restricted liquor licence.
Brett Barrie operates a BYO cafe and restau-
rant in Bridgetown and applied for an occasional
restaurant licence when the Blues Festival was on
last November so his customers could have a glass
of wine with their meal. Town-wide restrictions on
glass over the weekend meant it was going to be
difficult for them to buy bottled BYO wine.
He arranged for local wineries to offer top-
quality wines and samples. His request was
knocked back because he was "profiteering" from
the festival. "I was told it s just going to get harder
and harder to get an occasional licence from now
on," he says. "It doesn t matter if you have had one
before, the rules have all changed."
Stories of frustration, delay and expense are
crippling WA s hospitality industry. Further, tales
of tight conditions of trade, dress codes and re-
strictions on music, opening hours, the drinks that
can be served and even whether you have to sit or
stand have other licence-holders feeling the weight
It s certainly not what we thought we were
going to get when WA s new small bar laws came
into effect in mid-2007 after months of political
wrangling. Many of us were seduced by advertis-
ing campaigns promising a revitalised city with
funky little watering holes filled with sophisticated
people enjoying lively conversation, fine wine and
But while there are some great new bars scat-
tered through the city and some suburbs, (36 at
last count), Perth is still a long way from being
Melbourne in its vibrant, diverse nightlife.
"It was presented as an opportunity to have
drinking and socialising and eating in a different
environment but typically, we still have the hotel
situation of drinking as before," says Dan Mossen-
son, a liquor-licensing lawyer for 40 years, head of
partners at Lavan Legal and founder and secretary
of the Small Bar Association.
He says many applicants are finding it as hard
as ever to get a licence -- if not harder -- than
Despite enthusiasm for the small bar concept
from the likes of Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi,
applicants are facing a range of hurdles thrown up
by local councils, concerned neighbours, vested
interests, police and public health officials as well
as health and safety laws that have made the quest
a long and costly bureaucratic process. Complaints
about high food prices in Perth, many say, are a
direct result of the limited number of outlets.
Some delays will surely be resolved over time.
After all, Melbourne s liquor reforms were intro-
duced in 1988. Dan believes that as people gradu-
ally become aware that there are some alternatives
to big drinking barns, small bars will become more
acceptable and not just another place for people to
"Part of the process in bringing in a new drink-
ing scene is introducing the public to what we ve
already got, to appreciate what we have, the nature
and service of these establishments, the misconcep-
tions about drinking," he says.
But reports of binge drinking, anti-social
WA's liquor licensing reforms in 2007 were meant to see our streets and laneways opened to a
vibrant nightlife culture of small bars and eateries. But three years on we have only a handful of
premises open. So why is it so hard to get a drink at a bar? Danielle Benda reports.
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