Violence in our nightlife

CONCERNS raised this week by a mother who alleged her son was "king hit" by a bouncer in Hamilton are no doubt shared by many.

Sam Moss, the son of Lake Macquarie councillor Phillipa Parsons, is recovering after dental surgery to repair the damage done in the alleged assault.

Police are investigating the incident in which Mr Moss lost three teeth and was knocked unconscious outside the Kent Hotel. A hotel spokesman rejected suggestions that a bouncer had offended.

The incident reignited debate about the behaviour of bouncers in the city’s pub and club scene and the general level of late-night violence in our region.

News yesterday that two popular Newcastle hotels topped the state’s list of the most violent have added to those concerns.

The fact that this has occurred despite the Hunter having the most stringent alcohol and hotel licensing restrictions in NSW shows that the challenge still exists for the community, government and law enforcement agencies to address the problem of inner-city violence and alcohol abuse.

While the most recent list of venues facing the top-level restrictions is the shortest since they were introduced in 2008, two Newcastle venues, MJ Finnegans and Fannys, emerged as the worst offenders in the figures released yesterday.

These two venues are expected to be slapped with tighter trading restrictions.

The list revealed that 31 violent incidents occurred at MJ Finnegans in 2011, with 30 incidents occurring at Fannys. They compared unfavourably with some of Sydney’s more infamous violent nightspots.

The results have prompted a call for the Independent Liquor Authority to reopen a legal challenge aimed at further reducing hotel training hours in the city.

Demands have also been made in the past for the alcohol industry to channel more of the profit from its trade to minimising harmful consequences for the wider community. To be fair, the more responsible elements of the industry have taken important steps in this direction.

Much work and effort has gone into trying to help the city shed its unenviable image as a somewhat dangerous night-time destination.

But the findings for the two Newcastle venues is an embarrassment to the city and demonstrates the need for further attention.

Minister for Hospitality George Souris says the government will review the violent venues scheme to assess its effectiveness in combination with other alcohol-related initiatives, including expanded police powers, the intoxicated and disorderly offence, a planned trial of sobering-up centres and the Three Strikes disciplinary scheme.

These initiatives should be welcomed by patrons and publicans alike to ensure that venues not only offer top-quality service and amenity, but are safe and welcoming for those who enjoy the city’s nightlife.

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