Sep 29, 2017

Whiskey-a-go-go: Mixers after midnight laws dumped

FINE whiskey connoisseurs will finally be able to sip from their favourite tipple without having to endure mixers after midnight in a further relaxation of Sydney’s booze laws from Sunday morning.

Forced early closures and lockouts imposed in the wake of a spate of booze-fuelled assaults have been a blow to the city’s night-life.

As the rate of drunken ­violence has slowed, the laws have been slowly wound back under Liquor Minister Paul Toole.

Latest figures show ­assaults down 50 per cent in Kings Cross since 2014 and down 13 per cent in the CBD.

Shannen Gallacher enjoys a drink in The Barbershop Bar on York St, Sydney. Picture: Dylan Robinson

There has been a corresponding small increase in ­assaults in places such as Newtown, Surry Hills and Double Bay, which some punters turned to as alternative night-time ­destinations.

Now the state government is allowing venues in the CBD and Kings Cross classified as small bars — which can only host up to 100 customers — far greater flexibility on spirits and ­cocktails.

From midnight on Sunday small bars will no longer have to serve a mixer with spirits after midnight, enabling punters to sup on a decent whiskey, bourbon or any other spirit, straight and undiluted.

However, from Sunday there will also be a freeze on new ­liquor licences in the same inner city areas until mid-2018 as well as the start of a “three strikes” regime against licence-holders breaching liquor laws.

Mr Toole said the small bar law change would be welcomed by top shelf alcohol aficionados.

“Those who appreciate fine whisky in a relaxed, intimate small bar setting would sooner go without than be forced to ­dilute their favourite drop,” Mr Toole said.

Loosening up.

Small Bars Association chairman Martin O’Sullivan welcomed the changes. “It never made sense in a global city like this to explain to a customer they could only have a nip of whiskey past midnight if I mixed it with coke,” he said.

“These bars specialise in premium spirits, so these changes will help our industry grow and contribute to a vibrant but safe night-time economy.”

Mike Enright, owner-operator of The Barbershop Bar in York Street, agreed: “The rule was a bit silly. What’s the point of ageing a whiskey for 30 years only to mix it with soda?”

Also being scrapped for small bars is a bizarre rule that prohibited bar staff making cocktails that weren’t listed on menus.

“Bartenders are rightly proud of their trade, and by removing this restriction, we are encouraging Sydney’s small bars to ­innovate and flourish,” Mr Toole added.

Sunday small bars will no longer have to serve a mixer with spirits after midnight. Picture: Dylan Robinson

The rules are only being ­applied to small bars because the state government says they have “good compliance records and a low risk of alcohol-related violence”.

While the state government is relaxing those laws it has ­extended a freeze on new liquor licences in the CBD and Kings Cross until June 2018.

Midnight, Sunday also marks the start of the new “three strikes” regime, whereby licence holders can be stripped of their right to sell booze if they continually breach liquor laws.

Previously the rules applied to venues rather than individual licence holders.

Sydney’s booze laws were ­relaxed in January, including an extension of last drinks from 3am to 3.30am for venues offering live entertainment.

Read more in The Daily Telegraph