Free to serve drunks
Inspectors knock off early
PUBS and clubs are getting away with serving drunks and minors because lazy liquor licensing inspectors aren’t working late into the night, a scathing report has found.
The Auditor-General has found almost 90 per cent of venue checks last year were carried out before 10pm.
It meant Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation inspectors discovered just 15 cases where bartenders were serving intoxicated patrons, which can cost licensees more than $17,000 in fines.
Inspectors handed out only 17 breach notices for serving drinks to minors and 25 notices for selling alcohol without proper licences.
The Auditor-General criticised the VCGLR for trying to meet its targets with “a large number of short and largely superficial inspections”.
“Liquor compliance inspection activities are not currently based on evidence of potential harms and risk,” the Auditor-General’s report found.
The VCGLR carried out 12,474 inspections last year, detecting 5483 breaches.
But only 1 per cent of those were high-risk breaches, while the remainder involved offences such as failure to display licences and notices, and failure to produce venue plans for inspection.
Opposition liquor regulation spokesman Tim McCurdy said the State Government needed “to toughen up and make sure the law is properly enforced”.
Liquor Regulation Minister Marlene Kairouz said the VCGLR had made “significant progress” but there was “still work to be done” to improve its inspection regimen.
The report found 12 per cent of inspections last year happened between 10pm and 7am, but that the VCGLR’s target for this year was still just 12 per cent.
The Auditor-General discovered that of the limited late-night inspections, VCGLR staff spent an average of less than 15 minutes in each venue, giving them limited time to identify high-risk breaches.
Alcohol Policy Coalition spokesman Dr Mark Zirnsak, from the Uniting Church, said the short inspections were “just a joke”.
He said the VCGLR’s inspection regimen needed to be overhauled so it wasn’t focused on “ticking the box about how many they’ve done”.
“They need to adopt targets that are directly related to reducing harm,” Dr Zirnsak said.
Last year, the VCGLR started to collect intelligence to better target its inspections, producing maps for staff which linked licensed venues with data on assaults and ambulance call-outs.
A VCGLR spokeswoman said: “There is a wide program of work currently underway across the organisation to improve our regulatory approach and ensure inspections are as effective as possible.”