No more late nights: Insp West

One of the Latrobe Valley’s most powerful police officers wants to see all local late-night venues shut at 3am.

Inspector Mick West has spoken out about his mission to reduce liquor licensing hours to 3am across the Valley in a bid to address alcohol-fuelled violence.

First cab off the rank, if Insp West is successful, would be Traralgon’s largest late-night venue, the Kay Street Entertainment Complex.

“There’s a plethora of studies and research papers that support my contention that we have a safer community if venues are closed at 3am,” Insp West said.

“That has been my mission for a number of years and I believe it’s going to give us significant reductions in antisocial behaviour and make Traralgon a better place to enjoy yourself.”

Insp West and the licensees of the Kay Street Entertainment Complex are currently in a deadlock before the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation over the opening hours of Saloon Bar and Inferno nightclub.

The venues were licensed to open until 7am, but usually closed at 5am on their busiest nights.

Insp West requested the Commission reduce the liquor licence to 3am.

As part of the legal dispute, the licensees reduced the opening hours to 4am from 15 November last year and after appearing before the Commission again on Wednesday, will continue to close at 4am until March, when the Commission is expected to make a final decision on the matter.

Insp West warned that the Kay Street complex wasn’t the only establishment he would take action against.

“I’m committed to making Latrobe a safe place to go without being accosted by people over-influenced by alcohol or exposed to aggressive behaviour,” he said.

Kay Street Entertainment Complex licensees Andrew and Josie Panayiotou said the 4am closure was manageable, but they feared a reduction to 3am, particularly for all late-night venues, would lead to more violence, as potentially more than 1000 people would be ejected onto the streets at the same time.

“They’re way too active at 3am,” Ms Panayiotou said.

“To have young people in the street in an uncontrolled environment would be worse than in our venue where it is controlled.”

Ms Panayiotou said with a lockout at 3am and closing time of 5am, patrons were given time to gradually file out of the venue of their own accord.

The licensees hired Melbourne-based public safety specialist, and a former Victoria Police officer, Dr Tony Zalewski to develop a security management plan for the venues, which was implemented on 17 December.

Mr Panayiotou said crowd controllers wearing fluorescent vests were employed to enforce the responsible service of alcohol, additional surveillance cameras had been installed at the venue and it would soon be implementing a new dresscode.

He said the venue’s identification scanner – used on Saturday nights to take a record of everybody entering the venue – had helped to better identify and keep out those patrons banned from entering licensed venues under the liquor accord because of previous anti-social behaviour.

Dr Zalewski told The Express a common closing time for venues would lead to violence caused by increased competition for taxis and greater interaction with patrons from other late-night pubs and clubs.

Insp West said Kay Street management had “certainly made some good improvements”, but he would continue to push for a 3am close time.