Aussie Lockout: More Clashes

Melbourne’s nightclub operators and authorities continued to clash after the 2 a.m. lockout in the city centre took effect June 3.

The Liquor Licensing Commission issued a legal challenge to seven of the 110 clubs exempt from being part of the three-month trial. A win over the venues would mean that authorities could demand that all the exempt clubs lose their privileges.

The government has plans to double liquor licenses to pay for extra police patrols, and is determined to make the trial permanent. The lockout prevents new customers from entering a club after 2 a.m. but existing patrons are allowed to stay until closing.

The seven venue owners met June 10 to discuss their legal strategy. They will argue in court that the lockout constitutes a restriction of trade and demand millions of dollars in compensation.

Their court action will be funded by the newly formed Association of Liquor Licensees Melbourne.

The disarray from the introduction of the lockout was obvious in its first weekend. Brawls broke out when groups were refused entry and police issued 18 venues with infringement notices over failure to comply with lockout exemption provisions including beefing up security teams and keeping crowd size down.

Nightclub owners also challenged Assistant Police Commissioner Gary Jamieson’s estimate that violence was down 30 percent in the first weekend, asking him to provide confirmed data.