Disturbing reports of alcohol-fuelled violence in Melbourne have led to Liquor Licensing Victoria having a "crackdown" on licensed premises, that started prior to 2009, escalated in June 2009, and includes a new licence fee structure introduced January 2010.

This crackdown was supported and promoted by the Labor State Government, but was not controlled by them, as Liquor Licensing Victoria is largely independent of government. The Director of Liquor Licensing has been given huge powers by the 1998 law and subsequent amendments, and can apply conditions to the licences of premises, and enforce them, at his or her discretion. As of April 2011, the new Liberal government has not changed the regulations.

The crackdown has affected, and is continuing to affect, many safe, non-violent music venues, making it too expensive to have music playing.

Many would say this crackdown does nothing to address the social problems that cause the violence, and if anything will exacerbate them, because the smaller more personal music venues are the ones most at risk of closing, while the large venues where people become faceless are unaffected. Also, there are now fewer safe places to go for entertainment (day or night), and this will get worse.

Here we are seeing a poorly thought-out and implemented, vote-buying, knee-jerk reaction from the Government and the Government-supported Director of Liquor Licensing, that just makes things worse.

The problems
There are three aspects to liquor licensing that seriously impact music in Victoria:
1. Requirements for security guards and surveillance cameras, if there is music played (live music or amplified recorded music louder than background) at licensed venues.
These requirements are for venues that have "high risk" conditions on their licence, which is generally any hotel, tavern or bar that trades after 1am. Some glaring problems with this:
  • If a venue has the guards and cameras clause on their licence, these have to be in place whenever music is played, all days and all times. Even for a quiet open mic night on a Tuesday or a quiet Saturday afternoon, both of which could (and often do) have 10 people present. This is so expensive that these types of music events are simply cancelled.
  • The high risk conditions operate at all times, all days, even if the venue is licensed to 3am only on the weekend.
  • The requirement for guards and cameras only applies when live or amplified music plays… most live bands at 3am venues finish by 1am at the latest, so the music at these venues, which are labelled high risk because they trade after 1am, isn't even being played after 1am, in most cases.
  • Music is considered the risk factor rather than alcohol consumption and behaviour.
  • Places with no history of trouble have had the high risk conditions imposed on them.
2. Reduced venue capacities
Venues with no history of violence have had their capacity reduced. This results in lower income for the venue from bar and dinner, and smaller audiences and door takings for the musicians. The Arthouse were told they had to reduce from 300 to 90 if they kept trading to 3am, despite not having trouble there.
3. Increased fees
This has affected many businesses, and is not the main problem for music venues. It became an issue when The Tote closed because Bruce Milne had a temporary 1am licence since about October 2009, so had a reduced income, but was still being asked to pay the full 3am fee for 2010, because the 1am licence hadn't yet been made permanent.

Fees can be excessive for music venues when there has been even a single infringement. See Fees page for more on this.

Further information
Please explore the following sections of this website for further information about these issues: Licenses, Fees, Music police, Fallout, Government attitude, Sue MacLellan, The Greens and Petition.