Sue MacLellan on The Tote

I've put this page together from this page on Mess + Noise (where Bruce Milne's responses are in the comments section). See Sue MacLellan’s astonishing lack of regard for real facts here. Note - MacLellan’s term finished June 7.

Statement from Sue Maclellan, (former) Director of Liquor Licensing, in blue:

SUE: The Tote has a history of not complying with the conditions on its liquor licence as documented to me by the police, including crowd controllers not using counters to ensure the venue was not overcrowded. The licensee also had to close the premises in 2009 for failure to comply with the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 by not having approved directors listed on the licence in contravention of Victoria's liquor laws.

BRUCE: The Tote’s licence does not require us to have crowd controllers with counters. Nor has Liquor Licensing ever informed me that this was a requirement of our license. Our licence does not include a limit on the front bar crowd numbers. But it’s not in our interest to have a crowded front bar. The Tote has had a door person beyond the front bar on every night and I can give exact patron numbers for the rest of the venue for every night I have been operating the business.

ME: The 2009 “failure to comply with the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 by not having approved directors listed” came from Bruce not realising he had to apply to get himself approved as director, as well as applying for the licence. Gee.

SUE: The Tote in Collingwood was initially licensed under the late night category due to its trading hours of 3am and patron capacity, which identified it as high risk under the new liquor licensing fee structure.

BRUCE: This is true. On a Thurs, Fir, Sat night our licence allows us to trade until 3am.

ME: MacLellan freely admits that trading hours and capacity identifies The Tote as high risk, regardless of what actually happens there. The lazy way to administer.

SUE: The Tote has not incurred costs of implementing high risk conditions to date because the licensee agreed at VCAT to trading hours of 1am instead of 3am until the matter could be heard in full. Trading hours of 1am means it is not considered a high risk venue and would pay a commensurately lower fee.

BRUCE: The is untrue and I am surprised the Director Of Liquor Licensing would make this statement. The Tote did incur the costs of implementing high risk conditions. This included installing a CCTV system even when our licence didn’t require it but it was strongly suggested that we should.

These conditions were made much harsher by a new licence issued to The Tote in July 2009. This included a requirement to have a 2 security staff in attendance 30 minutes before and after any entertainment. I believe we fully complied with these requirements. Including having security staff on Saturday afternoons when the Tote had semi-acoustic acts playing for free in the front bar to an audience of less than 10 people.

The Tote offered to close at 1am on Thurs/Fri/Sat nights in order to be removed from the high risk conditions. Liquor Licensing rejected this. In frustration, we were forced to incur the legal fees of taking Liquor Licensing to VCAT to fight for our right to lose our busiest hours of trade. On October 4, 2009, VCAT put a stay on our high risk conditions. In a compromise, we agreed to have 2 security staff minimum before and after any entertainment.

Liquor Licensing issued us with our fees for 2010 that included the high risk fees. I appealed this based on the VCAT ruling but the Director of Liquor Licensing rejected my appeal. We are required to pay the full high risk fee for 2010.

SUE: The reduced trading hours to 1am permanently, the Tote needs the consent of the landlord. To date the Director has not been advised that this consent has been given.

BRUCE: Because it has not be given

SUE: In 2009 the Tote paid $4289.50 in liquor licensing fees (to operate until 3am). For 2010 they are required to pay $5962.50, which is an increase of $1,673. To trade to 1am, the fee is $2385.

ME: So the Tote was only trading to 1am, resulting in lower income, but had to pay the higher 3am fee because their 1am licence hadn't yet been made permanent.

After community consultation and extensive research the Victorian Government has introduced a new risk-based liquor licensing fee structure.

From January 1, 2010, and in line with community feedback, venues that
contribute the most to alcohol-related harm pay higher licence fees.

ME: Oh yeah, for sure - where’s the evidence that all late-trading venues contribute the most to alcohol-related harm? Funny that most alcohol is bought at shops, and these pay low fees.

The new fee structure aims to enhance community safety, increase the responsibility of licensees and it will also more accurately reflect the cost of regulating licensed venues to the Victorian taxpayer, which is costed at $35.8 million per year.

ME: And the Govt spends $30 million a year on the Grand Prix, with dubious benefits for the community.

Research shows that the one stand-out factor for predicting trouble in licensed venues is late trading hours. This risk is compounded the later a venue trades and as patron capacity increases.

All late-night licensees are subject to the same conditions to minimise potential risks associated with these types of venues and are required to pay the higher liquor licensing fees. Licensing fees are lower for venues operating under reduced operating hours and/or with lower patron numbers.

ME: The first sentence in the paragraph just above surely is ludicrous. How does having all late-night licensees subject to the same security conditions as each other lead to minimising potential risks in these venues? The lack of logic is extraordinary. All it does is minimise the work load of liquor licensing personnel.