Too much booze in Wonthaggi, he says

Do we have a problem with alcohol in Wonthaggi? Is it different here than elsewhere?
Bass Coast Shire councilor Les Larke thinks so, so much so that he wants the council to limit the number of liquor outlets in the town.

He was speaking at last week’s council meeting against the request for a licensed restaurant and pool hall, at 88-98 Watt Street Wonthaggi, opposite the police station at the site of the former Bi-Lo supermarket in town.

The Board eventually disagreed with Cr Larke and effectively approved the 300 customer facility, issuing a Notice of Determination, allowing it to proceed unless one of the 10 opponents decided to submit the request to the VCAT.

But Cr Larke was adamant; Wonthaggi has a drinking problem that needs to be fixed.

“I think we all know that alcohol is associated with a wide range of health and social problems in Wonthaggi, probably more so in Wonthaggi than any other part of the Bass Coast, with heavy drinking of a much higher percentage compared to the Victorian average,” said Cr Larke.

“There is also a higher percentage of licensed sites, 24 sites as of 31 January 2022, according to a recent report by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, and this too is high compared to the Victorian average.

“The proposed location is within 50 meters of the Caledonian Resort, and it is well established that the density of alcohol outlets is linked to poorer health outcomes and increased rates of assault and family violence.

“This app is not bad, but I’m talking about the impact on our social health in Wonthaggi in particular, targeted at Wonthaggi, given the large number of outlets per capita in Wonthaggi.

“I think this particular app has an unreasonable impact on the amenity of the surrounding area. It does not set a precedent. It is just an opportunity for the Council to take a position on alcohol in the specific circumstances of a community overburdened with licensed outlets and associated social issues,” he said.

Cr Bruce Kent, a police officer by profession, agreed with Cr Larke, saying domestic violence and alcohol-related problems were a significant problem in Bass Coast and local authorities needed to pick up the pieces.

“As an adviser, I think we need to start addressing these issues,” Cr Kent said.

But other advisers disagreed.

Cr Brett Tessari disputed a claim in Cr Larke’s motion that ‘it poses an unreasonable impact on the amenity of the surrounding area’.

“It’s a place that’s been empty for six or seven years and the community is crying out for something in there,” Cr Tessari said.

He said community members had seen the plans for the pool hall and licensed restaurant and were happy with what was on offer.

Cr Clare Le Serve agreed, saying she was more concerned with licensed poker machine sites than a licensed pool hall providing a sporting outlet also popular with women.

“And it couldn’t be better located just opposite the police station,” said Cr Le Serve.
Council approved the request by a 6 to 2 vote of councillors.

According to the applicant, everything revolves around the dancing, the swimming pool, the music and the food; not so much about alcohol.

“It was a dream to seek a rock n roll restaurant and pool hall at 89 Watt Street Wonthaggi,” the plaintiff told council.

“We plan to advertise “IT WAZ ALL A DREAM” on 1 LED sign and another LED sign with “Pool Hall &
Diner ‘placed outside the building in the required size of 8 square meters in total.

“However, on group evenings (Friday and Saturday) we can include more signage and lighting. Proposed height level approx. 2.3 meters above ground level.

“When it comes to liquor licenses, we offer approx. 8-10 (possibly more depending on the capacity of
indoor sponsors) staff + 2 RSA accredited managers. Our proposed hours of operation are
Sunday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (closes earlier if not busy). Friday and Saturday evenings will be at 6 a.m.
at 1am, again to close early so quiet.

“We will apply for a general liquor license when the license has been approved.

“We plan to play background music between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Friday,
On Saturdays and event nights, we would like to have louder music for dancing, but we plan to stay indoors.
watch out for neighborhood residents.

The plaintiff was hoping for a room capacity cap of 400, but the board limited it to 300 patrons.

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