Fines and convictions over unauthorised nightclub

13 February, 2018 by Andy Young

The two former licensees of the Newcastle restaurant Soho on Darby have been convicted and ordered to pay over $20,000 in fines and costs for running an unauthorised operation at the establishment.

Sean Driver pleaded guilty to two offences relating to selling and supplying liquor contrary to authority, he was fined $3000 and ordered to pay $5000 in costs. Samuel Luke pleaded guilty to three charges under the same offences, he was fined $7500 and also ordered to pay $5000 in costs.

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The convictions follow an investigation by Liquor & Gaming NSW after concerns that the business, which has a restaurant licence, was trading as a nightclub and Liquor & Gaming NSW’s Director of Compliance Operations, Sean Goodchild, said the case shows the regulator is monitoring higher risk venues and practices and will intervene where an operator misuses its licence or authority to disguise its activities.

“We have investigated a number of recent cases where a venue with a restaurant licence operates as a nightclub or bar,” he said.

“These business models misrepresent their activities and disregard strict obligations under NSW liquor laws, creating a far greater risk of alcohol-related harm.

“Both the court outcome and the Authority’s decision to revoke the venue’s primary service authorisation send a strong message to industry that misusing a liquor licence will not be tolerated.”

In monitoring the venue, Liquor & Gaming NSW inspectors carried out a series of inspections where they found the lower level of the restaurant empty, while the upstairs area was full with 80 to 100 people standing, drinking and dancing in a nightclub style environment with DJ entertainment.

In December last year, following an application by Liquor & Gaming NSW to the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) the venue’s primary service authorisation, which allowed drinks to be served without meals so long as the venue operated primarily as a restaurant, was revoked.

ILGA found that Soho on Darby’s business model had resulted in a level of anti-social behaviour and disturbance that was unacceptable to the public interest.