On Tap News

Labor Promises to Abolish Melbournes Last Remaining Dry Area

Labor Promises to Abolish Melbournes Last Remaining Dry Area

Daniel Andrews has promised to abolish the last remaining alcohol free zones in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, including areas covering Ashburton, Glen Iris, Camberwell, Canterbury, Box Hill, Balwyn, Mont Albert and Surrey Hills, if the Labor party is re-elected at this months state election.

Under current legislation, residents of some areas of the City of Whitehorse and the City of Boroondara are required to vote on some new liquor licence applications in a poll conducted by the Victorian Electoral Commission. According to Labor, these rules which date back to the anti alcohol movement of the 1920's have cost taxpayers almost $500,000 since 2004 and that each of the 20 polls carried out since 2012 has seen the new licence approved.

“These archaic laws are a waste of money and an unnecessary burden on locals – and we’ll get rid of them. Melbourne’s local pubs, restaurants and bars are part of what makes our city great. This change is good news for our hospitality industry and great for jobs” said Premier Danial Andrews.

Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Marlene Kairouz, has told the ABC “There are already a number of licensed venues that exist within the remaining dry area. We are removing these laws, we are bringing these laws in line with the rest of the state.”

The Australian Hotels Association has welcomed the move.

“I think it’s a great idea. Victoria is open for business so why not Camberwell, Mont Albert and Surrey Hills as well. This announcement will hopefully see the opportunity for those who live in those areas to have a hotel development proposed for their area, rather than having to travel elsewhere.” Paddy O’Sullivan, CEO of the Australian Hotels Association Victoria, told 3AW in an interview.

"Melbourne's eastern suburbs will have a choice of priorities at the next election, whether they want more police under a Liberal Nationals government, or more nightclubs under a Labor government," said Opposition leader Matthew Guy, who also suggested that there were more urgent priorities which required consideration.

Under the planned scrapping of the dry area laws, residents could still have input into planning and permit approvals through their local councils and through the licence application process.

What is a 'dry area'?

The following areas of the Cities of Whitehorse and Boroondara are dry areas:

  • East of Burke Road to Middleborough Road
  • Bounded to the north by Koonung Creek
  • Bounded to the south by Gardiner's Creek, Warrigal Road and Riverdale Road (as extended through the Box Hill Golf Course).

Liquor licence polls

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) will not grant specific liquor licenses unless expressly approved by the residents of the adjacent neighbourhoods. Residents vote in a liquor licence poll conducted by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). This restriction applies to the following licence types:

  • general licence (hotel or bar)
  • on-premises licence
  • club licence.

This approval process also applies to relocation of any existing licenses to the dry area.

Criteria and exemptions

  • BYO permits are exempt from the dry area polls.
  • Restaurant and cafe licence applications - no poll required.
  • An application for a general, on-premises or club licence in the 'dry area' must satisfy the standard licensing criteria of the Act.
  • Licence applications will be the subject of a dry area poll conducted by the VEC. A majority of residents must vote in favour of the application before it may be granted by the VCGLR.
  • The VCGLR and the VEC consult to determine the neighbourhood that will be polled for a particular licence application.

Any dry area poll will be conducted only after the applicant has obtained planning permission from the relevant council (City of Boroondara or City of Whitehorse). The objections process continues to apply and objections may be submitted to the VCGLR as per the standard licence application process.

A poll can be conducted by way of attendance or postal voting. This is determined by the VEC. The conduct of the poll is specified in the Liquor Control Reform Regulations 2009. Boroondara or Whitehorse councils may conduct a 'dry area' wide poll. The result of such a poll automatically amends the relevant provisions of the Act to give effect to the majority vote.