Liquor law changes

NEW measures from the state government to combat alcohol-related violence have been met with mixed reactions from the Kiama Liquor Accord's chairman.

John Bambury, who is also the Kiama Leagues Club's general manager, largely welcomed the changes, which increase mandatory sentences for alcohol-related assaults.

However, he questioned the impact of mandatory bottle shop closures at 10pm, saying the measure could cause more problems.

"Quite often you'll have a group of people with the good intention of staying at home," he said.

"If they run out of alcohol, they can send someone to get more, but if the shops close at 10pm, they can't get a take-away and they might say, 'take us up to the pub'."

Mr Bambury said a midnight closure would be more appropriate.

However, University of Wollongong Professor Sandra Jones, who is conducting a trial to reduce under-age drinking in the municipality, disagreed, saying the measure could reduce the amount of pre-loading and violence at home.

"A group of boys can buy a carton of beer and if they get through that, they can pop out and get another - restricting opening hours will impact their capacity to go out and buy more," she said.

"Alcohol-related violence is not just what you see in the streets - that's what gets the media coverage, but a lot happens in people's homes."

Professor Jones said there was clear evidence venue lockouts were also effective, but they should be consistent across the state to avoid simply moving the problem.

While violence in the Sydney CBD has been the focus in recent months, Mr Bambury said violence rates in Kiama were low, saying venues already implemented lockouts.

However, the liquor accord has had difficulties funding its night bus.

The state government helped the accord to fund a summer bus on Saturday nights during summer for several years, but Mr Bambury said it was poorly patronised, cost inefficient and overlapped with the accord's night bus.

According to Mr Bambury, the state government pulled the funding when the accord raised the idea of using the state government's funds to support the night bus instead.

The night bus continues to run, with Kiama Municipal Council agreeing to contribute $2000. Mr Bambury said Kiama Inn and Kiama Grand Hotel had been left to fund the bus largely by themselves.

Lake Illawarra Local Area Command licensing sergeant Gary Keevers said alcohol-related crime in the area was significantly down on previous years and courtesy buses were an important tool in getting people off the street quickly.

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