What Does The Public Need?

As one drunk blogger said to another on Saturday night: The WA Liquor industry is an absolute fucking disgrace.

I’ve done a fair bit of travelling in my time, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’ve attempted to drink a beer or two in every city I have visited in the world. Out of all the cities I’ve gone out in, Perth’s pubs are, if not the worst in the world, then pretty bloody close to it.

The reason is pretty simple: Draconian licensing laws, and a ridiculously powerful special interest group that will do absolutely anything to preserve their unnatural monopoly.

The real key to shittiness of Perth nightlife is to be found in a tiny sentence in section 38 of the WA Liquor Licensing act known as the “Public Needs Test“:

In the case of an an application for the grant of a category A licence (Hotel, Tavern, Hotel Restricted, Liquor Store, Cabaret and Special Facility licence), the applicant has to demonstrate that the licence is needed in order to provide for the reasonable requirements of the public.

Hotel, Tavern, and “Cabaret” Apply to anything that can reasonably be called a pub or nightclub. The only organisations exempt from the test are restaurants (which may only serve alcohol when the kitchen is open) and sporting clubs.

As is pretty apparent from the wording of this test, the legislation can be read as “No new licences in already serviced areas, ever.” You can’t even attempt to open a pub or club in Northbridge or Fremantle – the “public need” is already served by the many licences already in operation there.

Who needs a free market for this sort of thing anyway? We know what the public needs, and they’ve already got it. What the public needs is $7 pints and dress codes in suburban dive bars. What the public needs is a market that so closely resembles a monopoly, punters have devised their own rosters for bar visitation – most of them left over from a time when Pubs were legally allowed to engage in customer seeking tactics such as the long-forgotten “Happy Hour”, “Ladies Night” and “Drink Specials”.

Those of you reading from other states: You aren’t seeing things, Happy hours and Drink Specials are a thing of the past in Perth. Why have a special? It’s not like the punters can go anywhere else. Dress Code? Hell, why not. Either they dress up or they stay home. No skin off our nose. Don’t like your haircut? FUCK OFF MATE, you’re “too pissed”. We don’t need your money, there’ll be a line down the block for the next 3 hours.

Owning a liquor licence in Perth is a licence to print money. It’s no great the surprise that the AHA of WA is extremely happy the situation.

The reforms first proposed by the Court government (allowing liquor stores to trade sundays, removing the “Public Needs” test, and letting restaurants keep the bar open after the kitchen is closed) are STILL waiting to be put to Parliament, where they will be undoubtedly rejected by the greens on some sort of “social conscience” platform. The AHA of course, is quite keen on any of the measures that will let them sell more grog, as long as nobody ELSE gets to sell grog. This is known as “Harm minimisation” in the liquor industry, and “restraint of trade” elsewhere.

I’ll elaborate on this absolute farce of a system in a subsequent post. Until then, remember: If someone spills their beer on you, you were BOTH drunk!

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One Comment on “What Does The Public Need?”

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