It's official: small bars are not violent, need red tape cut

A few months back, we needed to take a break from writing business plans and coding spreadsheets. We got up, walked around a bit, made a nice cup of tea and sat back down to write a submission to the NSW Government's review of small bar legislation.

That's just how we roll here at Mobius Distilling Co - it's a non-stop thrill ride all the way.

Seriously though, developing a better drinking culture is something we're passionate about. We reckon (and the review confirms) that small bars are helping achieve that.

We were pleasantly surprised to see our submission mentioned in several sections of the report and L&GNSW's final recommendations are pretty much along the lines of what we suggested:

- that small bars don't have a problem with alcohol-related violence and are, in fact, the least likely type of licensed venue to experience it. It might seem obvious that an intimate little cocktail bar down a side lane way isn't the place to go if you're an angry drunk looking to punch on but now there's actual data which confirms that doesn't happen. That's a win for everybody, especially the cops and medics who have to pick up the pieces when things go bad.

- the maximum capacity of 60 patrons should be lifted to 100 in order to improve the financial viability of small bars. The data suggests that negative social impacts don't really start to occur until capacities reach 120 people, so lifting the cap on patrons for the small bar license to 100 won't really hurt and, in fact, will help venue owners by giving them a lot more flexibility in choosing spaces. That means greater opportunities to make more money and spend some of it employing more staff to give patrons better experiences and more choices.

- between local council development applications and the state government liquor licenses, there's a hell of a lot of red tape that small operators can't afford to deal with. The review recommends that a lot of the paperwork can be streamlined and the state and local authorities can work closer to do things more efficiently.

For us - and a lot of people we know - this last point resonates very strongly. There's an absolutely heartbreaking graph on page 18 of the report that shows prospective small bar licensees waiting nearly a year to get their applications approved. When your biggest fear isn't that you'll open a bar and nobody will turn up, but that you'll try to open a bar and get suffocated by bureaucracy, something is clearly wrong and it's great to see Liquor & Gaming NSW acknowledging the problem and recommending that it be fixed.

Let's hope the review's recommendations are acted on quickly and we can enjoy the results through a better Sydney bar scene. It can't be that hard, can it? Here's a good start: drink a bit less, drink a bit better and look after one another.

And now, back to those spreadsheets...


The folks at Mobius Distilling Co.

You can read the report here.