A Riverina alliance has increased its crackdown on minors being in licensed premises during the summer holidays.
The campaign ‘Rethink that Sneaky Drink’ by the police, Wagga City Council, Wagga Liquor Accord and the Australian Hotels Association involves increased police numbers at licensed premises on New Year’s Eve.
Any minor caught illegally in licensed premises are barred from them in the Wagga Liquor Accord area until they are 19 years old.
In a statement, the Riverina police said that while “underage drinking is not viewed as the most heinous of crimes, the hospitality industry is heavily regulated and for good reason”.
“The consumption of alcohol is frequently attributed to violence and anti-social behaviour,” the statement reads.
“This risk is increased in licensed premises, and places minors in a vulnerable position should they choose to unlawfully enter a licensed premise.”
Minors in licensed premises have serious implications for licensed premises.
A range of offences may result in penalties of up to $11,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment for licensees and staff, strikes against licensees and closure of a licensed premise for up to 28 days or in serious cases longer.
Any minors who breach their ban will have legal action taken against them and their bans will restart from the date of the offence.
There will be lots of extra police around and obviously licensed premises.Wagga Police Inspector Peter McLay
Wagga Police Inspector Peter McLay urged revellers to drink and behave responsibly.
“There will be lots of extra police around and obviously licensed premises will be one of the focuses for police who are working [on New Year’s Eve],” Inspector McLay said.
“On New Year’s Eve, police encourage people to enjoy the night responsibly and there will be lots of extra police working around the Riverina Police District to deal with those who think it’s okay to overindulge and play up,” Inspector McLay said.
“Unfortunately, that’s sometimes the case on nights like New Year’s Eve.
“Police will be out in force and Operation Safe Arrival [road-safety crackdown] is still in effect with random breath tests.”
“Not worth the risk”: licensee
Harry Vearing, licensee of Wagga’s Victoria Hotel, said minors being caught was “just not worth the risk” and urged adherence to the campaign’s message.
“Venues face massive implications if caught with underage patrons inside the hotel, so we needed to drive this message home,” Mr Vearing said.
“It has been very successful to date and with the use of scanners at the late-trading venues, it acts as a good deterrent.
David Barnhill, Wagga Liquor Accord member and licensee of the William Farrer Hotel, said operators would ensure that all patrons “have a good, fun time”.
“Most people in Wagga are out to have a good time and generally it’s a good, safe environment,” Mr Barnhill said.
“December’s a busy month for all pubs, obviously with Christmas functions and a lot of work parties as well.
“But it’s still great to see police out and about, they’re more than welcomed into our venues.”
Resident Michael Church said the campaign was a good way to deter minors from consuming alcohol.
“It’s making sure they’re responsible in what they’re doing, and making sure you’ve got a responsible person taking you home,” Mr Church said.
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