Restrictions on licenced venues do reduce harm

The evidence is clear, restrictions on licenced venues and packaged liquor outlets work. GrogWatch does not understand why governments around the country are not using this strong evidence-based approach to reduce alcohol-related violence. Many Australian cities allow longer trading hours than other cities around the world, including New York, Vancouver, London, Edinburgh, Paris and Amsterdam¹. This week we are publishing the view of Mark Zirnsak, Director of Justice and International Mission at the Uniting Church in Victoria and active member of the Community Alcohol Action Network. Mark is one of the people leading a postcard action to lobby the Victorian Government to restrict operating hours based on the success of doing this in Newcastle.  

Alcohol is responsible for the preventable deaths of over 700 Victorians each year. Thousands more require hospital treatment for assault, serious falls, alcohol poisoning and stomach pumping, attempted suicides, and road trauma.² The Victorian Government must take evidence-based action to reduce this harm.

One obvious solution is to implement similar restrictions on liquor outlets in Victoria to what was used in Newcastle to reduce harm and improve community safety. These measures resulted in a detectable and lasting reduction in alcohol-related assaults.

The Newcastle restrictions were a response to the NSW Police Force lodging a complaint in 2007 with the NSW Liquor Administration Board against four Newcastle liquor outlets on the grounds that they were causing ‘undue disturbance of the quiet and good order of the neighbourhood’. This complaint was made against a backdrop of considerable community dissatisfaction with high levels of alcohol-related violence in and around the Newcastle central business district. In November of that year, the police added a further 11 liquor outlets in Newcastle to the complaint.

On 21 March 2008, the Liquor Administration Board responded by requiring:

  • Fourteen of the outlets in question to refuse the entry of any new patrons after 1am, but patrons already in the venue could stay and keep drinking.
  • Eleven of these venues to shut at 3am and three at 2:30am.
  • A supervisor to be on the premise from 11pm until closing with the sole purpose of monitoring responsible service of alcohol.
  • No sale of shots, mixed drinks with more than 30ml of alcohol, ready mixed drinks stronger than 5% alcohol, and more than four drinks to any patron at one time from 10pm.
  • The sale of alcohol to finish 30 minutes before the venue closed.

Analysis of the impact of these restrictions found that there were approximately 133 less alcohol related assaults in Newcastle in the year following the restrictions compared to the previous year. It was found that 83 of these were related to the hotels on which the restrictions were placed. In the four years prior to the restrictions on the liquor outlets 17% of all non-domestic violence assaults occurred between 3am and 6am. In the year after the restrictions were applied, the proportion of such assaults that occurred in this time period dropped to 6%.³

We are now using a joint postcard action to call for the Victorian Government to follow the example set in Newcastle. The postcard is supported by the Australian Drug Foundation, Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, Salvation Army, Anglicare and Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The postcard specifically calls for:

  • Liquor outlets to be required to shut at 3am.
  • Liquor outlets to be required to stop serving alcohol at 2:30am.
  • Packaged liquor outlets to be required not to sell alcohol after 11pm.

We need your support to encourage the Victorian Government to act now on reducing alcohol-related violence.

To order postcards:

T: (03) 9251 5271




1. Miller P, Diment C & Zinkiewicz L 2012 The role of alcohol in crime and disorder, Prevention Research Quarterly, 18.

2. The Victorian Government Department of Health, 2012. The Victorian drug statistics handbook: patterns of drug use and related harm in victoria for the period July 2009 to June 2010, Victoria: Victorian Government Publishing Service.

3. Craig James et al., 2009. ‘The impact of restricted alcohol availability on alcohol-related violence in Newcastle, NSW’, Crime and Justice Bulletin, 137.