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Barrister says nightclub could sue over locko -

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Barrister says nightclub could sue over lockout trial

The World Today - Monday, 9 June , 2008 13:45:00

Reporter: Alison Caldwell

BRENDAN TREMBATH: "Confusing" but "satisfying" is how police describe the first weekend of lockouts
for late night drinkers in Melbourne.

In parts of the city, people can't enter pubs or nightclubs after 2am. But more than a quarter of
the city's nightclubs and bars were granted last minute exemptions.

A lawyer has advised the industry it may be able to sue the Brumby Government for financial losses
because of the lockout decision.

Alison Caldwell reports from Melbourne.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Director of Liquor Licensing will challenge seven of Melbourne's largest
nightclubs which were granted exemptions from the 2am lockouts which came into force a week ago.
They're among more than 100 clubs and pubs which won exemptions after they agreed to hire more
security guards and not advertise their victory.

If the director's legal challenge is successful, it's expected the decision would also apply to the
other venues that escaped the 2am ban.

The lock out was put to its first major test over the long weekend. Albeit confusing, the lockout
was still satisfying, according to Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Gary Jamieson, who
describes Saturday night as "subdued".

GARY JAMIESON: Generally, it was pretty satisfying. It's the first of many weekends for the trial
would just go to run for three months. So, there was a little bit of confusion, both with
licensees, police and patrons, just about which premises have got a lockout, which ones have been
exempt from the lockout, confusions about the actual terms and conditions about what the lockout
means.

Our preference would be, all in or nothing. The issue is that it was a trial, it was a trial set up
in good faith because it's worked elsewhere. We wanted to succeed. We're encouraged by the results
even so far, we would like licensees to be in, it's ... no one's holed up in the court system.

ALISON CALDWELL: Out on the streets at 2am, people interviewed for ABC Local Radio, said the
lockout certainly disrupted their plans for a good night out.

PATRON: Oh, it was our first time in Melbourne and we've got nowhere to go. There's nowhere, so
we're going to Crown.

PATRON 2: Oh, I was planning on a night but seeing that it's past two o'clock, I can't go anywhere.

PATRON 3: I'm not happy about the lockout and I'm from England and we come over for a good night
out, and all of a sudden we're stopped having a night out in the middle of our night out.

PATRON 4: It won't help people out, it won't make people safer on the streets, because the people
that were in the city will still be here. It's just that they won't be in their clubs, they'll be
roaming the streets until they train home.

PATRON 5: It's just going to get even worse. Too many people, it's crowded out at one time, getting
kicked out, punch-ons, it's going to put it altogether and just congregate more violence.

PATRON 6: I think the worst part about it is if you're at a club and there's people you don't like
there, you have no option of going to somewhere else.

ALISON CALDWELL: Licensees are angry that several liquor outlets escaped the lock out.

A 24-hour liquor outlet in the inner south-east reportedly had more than 30 people buying alcohol
around midnight with many drinking out on the street.

Nightclub owner Carlo Colosimo says his takings are down 25 per cent. He says clubs and bars have
been unfairly targeted.

CARLO COLOSIMO: You know, on the whole, I think licensees do a reasonably good job. They're, we're
not all saints, we're saying that on the whole we do the right thing. And we know how to manage the
venues. We need someone now to manage the streets.

ALISON CALDWELL: The nightclub industry may have grounds on which to sue the Brumby Government and
the Director of Liquor Licensing Sue Maclellan, according to a barrister who has provided legal
advice to the sector.

Eric Vardalis says clubs may be able to sue for damages.

ERIC VARDALIS: They would sue for damages they'd suffered as a result of the lockdown, for example,
loss of income or diminution in the value of their business. If VCAT (Victorian Civil and
Administrative Tribunal) was to sign that the decisions you made was based on reliable and on
properly researched material and evidence, then the people who objected to her decision, the
declaration, will have no cause of action.

But, if you found that it was an ill-conceived, spur of the moment reaction and perhaps politically
motivated and not found in reality or in substance, then it's different story.

ALISON CALDWELL: Police issued 18 venues with infringement notices after failing to comply with the
lockout provisions on Friday and Saturday night. Several venues exempted from the lockout breached
conditions of their agreement including a lack of security staff and exceeding licensed patron
numbers.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Alison Caldwell.