Country publicans throughout Queensland are ready to toast an initiative by Mount Isa MP Rob Katter, who says it’s time for the state government to move on from a one-size-fits-all approach to liquor licencing.
In the next sitting of parliament he’ll be putting forward a bill that will include provisions for discounts on licence fees for pubs in remote towns, reducing the cost to a tenth of the amount handed over now.
“In a town of 100 people a pub is more than a place to drink, it’s a community meeting place and provides a significant social benefit,” Mr Katter said.
“Pubs in these towns rely on far fewer customers and hold a different place in the community than the massive pubs in Brisbane, however they pay the same fee, which I don’t think is an accurate reflection of how important these venues are for small communities.”
Prairie’s Tom Duddy said it was a terrific idea, saying the amount of traffic through the Breakfast Creek Hotel in Brisbane on a Friday night would be about the same as three months of patronage at his hotel on the Flinders Highway.
“When you haven’t got the foot traffic flow, the $3500 licence fee is money that could be spent on electricity bills and rates,” he said.
“We’re the only highway business left in our little town and it’s hard to keep going, especially with the drought and the flow-on effects.
“There’s not a lot of spare money about.”
Another publican selling as many cappucinos as he does schooners is Yaraka’s Chris Gimblett, and he hailed Mr Katter’s plan as “absolutely magnificent”.
The Yaraka Hotel is more of a community centre than a pub for the town’s 18 residents and Mr Gimblett said being asked to pay $70 a week to pull beers in such a remote location was “discriminatory”.
“The only way we’ve been able to keep going is by being mortgage free,” he said. “This and electricity prices are both great imposts on trading.”
Mr Katter said he would like to see a discounted fee applied to all Queensland pubs in “very remote Australia” - as classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The new licence structure would cover pubs in towns such as Cunnamulla, Dirranbandi, Georgetown, Pentland, Blackall and many other small communities across the state, benefiting around 110 venues all up.
Mr Katter anticipated support for the bill from a number of interested stakeholders, including industry bodies and all sides of politics.
“This bill recognises that operators in small communities face different issues than other areas - we need to move away from a one-size fits all approach,” he said.
“We expect the bill will reduce the fee from around $3500 to $350 for eligible pubs.
“It will have a significant positive impact on those small pubs which struggle under unnecessarily high fees.”