Want a small bar licence approved? Sorry, they’re not in the public interest.

Never mind that small bars are the new in-thing for Perth, apparently they’re not necessarily in the public interest. An application for a small bar licence in the recently developed Cockburn Central was recently rejected by the Liquor Commission – despite widespread community and local government support. For the news article, click here.

In this case it was the liquor licence, rather than planning approval that was refused, with the reason given a lack of “compelling evidence to show that granting the licence was in the public interest”. This is despite the Commission noting that the bar would not negatively impact the local community. It seems the Commission is unable to determine whether a small bar in a young, underdeveloped secondary activity centre such as Cockburn Central is able to provide some sort of benefit to community. I can think of several benefits already, such as being able to eat, drink and socialise in a quiet environment within walking distance of my home. In fact, I’d love one near my home. Oh wait, there is one – except the liquor licence application is still waiting to be processed nearly six months after the sign on the door went up. Guess I’ll have to stick with avoiding the dodgy local pubs or transport myself into Perth to hang out in one of their cool small bars.

The applicants for the small bar licence are certainly not alone in their disappointment – an application for a small bar licence in Victoria Park was also refused last week on the grounds that insufficient community support was provided. Interestingly in this case the premises was already operating as a BYO restaurant and therefore effectively performing the same function as a small bar, but without the ability to sell alcohol. It would seem having an existing customer base, legally consuming alcohol on the premises, is not equal to community support. I’m actually quite confused now as what community support is.

The real question is how can a small bar development in such a location as Cockburn Central be against the public interest, given no negative impacts on the community were identified? Cockburn Central desperately needs uses other than just shops to activate the centre outside of normal business hours. One can only hope the liquor licence appeal will be successful.