Staff strike out on after-hours tipple

THE decades-long tradition of after-hours staff drinks appears to be over with Newcastle licensing police vowing to crack down on suburban pubs supplying alcohol outside of their trading hours.

The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing yesterday revealed that New Lambton's Duke of Wellington Hotel was one of five venues across NSW to be listed on the "three strikes" public register for breaching its trading hours in August.

The pub now faces closer scrutiny, with further breaches potentially putting the business in danger, after it paid the $1100 fine.

It is understood the breach occurred when four staff and a handful of friends, who were waiting for a lift home, had remained inside the venue, some still drinking at 2.20am, as some staff continued to clean up following a busy Saturday night.

The release of the breach yesterday prompted licensing police to warn other licensees that they face action if they supply alcohol after their normal trading hours or if people other than employees remain on their premises more than 30 minutes after closing.

Sergeant Wayne Buck, of Newcastle licensing police, said the legislation stated that any alcohol being handed over, whether paid for or not, was deemed as supply and would be in breach.

"They have got to be aware that staff cannot drink in the bar area of the hotel after closing time," Sergeant Buck said.

"It is fair to say we are now looking at the suburban hotels - the city hotels are now no longer our primary focus."

The crackdown means that the traditional "staffy", where staff sat around and had a drink while either cleaning up or debriefing after the night, would attract a breach under the legislation.

Australia Hotels Association Newcastle and Hunter president Rolly de With said a relatively minor breach attracting a strike could potentially put the future of the premises at risk.

"The three strikes policy was introduced to deal with rogue or recalcitrant offenders that continually failed to comply with liquor licensing requirements," Mr de With said.

"It was not supposed to be the country or suburban pub that is consistently well behaved."

The Duke of Wellington licensee did not wish to comment.

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