Subiaco Post: Beer wars revive grog swill fears

//Subiaco Post: Beer wars revive grog swill fears

Cheap booze is flooding western suburb bars.

And it’s got Nedlands mayor Max Hipkins worried.

“I do see a problem with it,” he said.

“It was a big issue in the 1990s with Steve’s Hotel and others offering cheap liquor, and it seems to have raised its head again.”

Mr Hipkins is considering brokering an agreement with local publicans to prevent any repeat of antisocial behaviour, decades after helping to solve the problem the first time.

“There’s a correlation between the price of liquor, the availability of liquor and motor vehicle accidents and domestic violence,” he said.

Chelsea Pizza in Nedlands has been selling pints of beer for just $3 following steep discounting at the Vic Hotel in Subiaco, where pints cost $3.50, and the Village, also in Subiaco, where patrons pay $4 a pint.

Drinkers there are paying less than half the standard price of a pint, which is about $10.

In Nedlands, the Captain Stirling now offers “everyday” whisky drink specials of $6, Varsity Bar in Broadway Fair has recently promoted $5 pints, and the UWA Tavern has been spruiking $5.50 tinnies of beer.

At the Irish Club of WA in Subiaco, patrons pay just $6 for a pint of Guinness or Magners cider.

The Boardroom in Subiaco offers $4 schooners, while The Claremont has offered $5 pints and $7 tinnies of beer.

Prospective Claremont restaurateur Jordan Kestell said he was planning to offer cheaper drinks at a new venture in Claremont.

“Alcohol is far too expensive,” he said.

“We’ll be trying our best to make a night out affordable.”

Mr Kestell, a Nedlands council candidate at last year’s election, said the price of drinks in Perth had outpaced inflation in recent decades.

During the 1990s, Nedlands pubs were awash with cheap alcohol and accompanying social problems as Steve’s Hotel, the Chelsea, the Broadway, the Captain Stirling and the UWA Tavern attracted large crowds of young people throughout the week.

Mr Hipkins said a lot of crime was associated with alcohol consumption, including breakins and assaults.

In the 90s, Mr Hipkins was a council director and helped broker an accord between the bar owners to reduce discounting and tackle binge-drinking.

And he is prepared to do it again.

“Maybe we will have to go back to a liquor accord,” he said.

“I’m willing to become involved to find the best way forward.”

He said the council was reluctant to take a regulatory approach and preferred to use its powers of persuasion to get liquor licensees on board.

While the first bars to start an alcohol price war usually did well financially, the remaining players often got hurt.

“It’s a downward spiral and it affects the incomes of vendors,” Mr Hipkins said.

Hospitality venues instead needed to work together to promote good-quality food and beverage offerings at reasonable prices, he said.

Nedlands CEO Peter Mickleson said the council had some influence over opening hours through approving development applications, but it had no influence over pricing.

Subiaco mayor Penny Taylor said the beer wars had attracted people to Subiaco and given local businesses a boost in recent months.

But Health Minister Roger Cook said selling cheap beer suggested venues were encouraging dangerous levels of alcohol consumption.

Last year, Mr Cook argued for a minimum per unit price on alcohol as a harm prevention strategy.

Hillarys state MP Peter Katsambanis said he was happy for people to enjoy $4 and $4.50 beers in Subiaco, but he discouraged drinkers from driving long distances to do so.

“I do not want people from Hillarys, Sorrento, Joondalup or Warnboro to drive to Subiaco to load up and then drive home,” Mr Katsambanis told Parliament this week.

Kim Christian