The licensee of Little Jack Horner in Coogee is facing almost $24,000 in fines and legal costs after being convicted for the unauthorised operation of his business as a bar.
In Downing Centre Local Court on 20 March, Brenton McHatton pleaded not guilty to two offences relating to selling and supplying liquor contrary to authority. He was found guilty, convicted, fined $12,000 and ordered to pay $11,300 in legal costs.
A Liquor & Gaming NSW investigation found the business, which at the time was only authorised to operate as a restaurant, was trading as a bar.
On 23 December 2017 and 10 February 2018, patrons entering the venue were not invited to dine or directed to tables.Most patrons were seen standing and drinking alcohol bought directly from the bar, with minimal food being served.
Mr McHatton held a liquor licence for an on premises restaurant with a primary service authorisation. This allows a licensed restaurant to sell and supply alcohol to customers without meals, but only if it operates primarily as a restaurant at all times of the day or night, where serving meals is always the main focus.
Magistrate Susan McIntyre found that at the time of both offences, Little Jack Horner was operating for the primary purpose of serving alcohol and its capacity to prepare and serve food to the public at any time was not enough to fulfil licensing requirements.
Her Honour said the venue “had to be a restaurant, start to finish, morning to night, every hour” and it was not up to Mr McHatton to “pick and choose when it operates as a restaurant or not.”
Liquor & Gaming NSW’s Director of Compliance Operations, Sean Goodchild, said the case highlights the risks associated where restaurants effectively morph into nightclubs or bars.
“We have investigated several recent cases where a venue with a restaurant licence has transformed into a nightclub or bar,” he said.
“These business models have a far greater risk of alcohol-related harm.
“Restaurants seeking to change their business model to become a nightclub or bar can apply to Liquor & Gaming NSW which can then properly consider all relevant issues.”
The licensee has updated the licence since the time the offences so the current licence better reflects the actual operation of the venue. He has appealed the decision of the Local Court Magistrate to the District Court of NSW.
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