Roadhouse suspends selling takeaway alcohol after killing

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The Wycliffe Well pub has voluntarily stopped selling take-away alcohol after a woman aged 19 was killed two weeks ago.

 

“The locals, the local blackfellers, were lined up here the next day after the killing as if nothing had happened,” says licence holder Arc Vanderzalm. “And I said, someone has been killed and I am not selling alcohol. And that’s the end of the story.”

 

[Police charged a 24 year old man with murder in relation to the death of a 23 year old female which occurred in Wauchope on Thursday, 24 April.]

 

Wycliffe Well (photo below), a roadhouse and caravan park, with a tongue-in-cheek reputation as a location where aliens and flying saucers have been spotted, is on the Stuart Highway, 370 km north of Alice Springs.

 

The woman was killed near another roadhouse, Wauchope, 17 km to the north. Wauchope, too, had stopped selling take-away alcohol, according to locals, but has resumed sales.

 

“I haven’t sold alcohol since. I don’t know how long I won’t be selling alcohol because I can’t afford not to sell it indefinitely. I’d go broke,” says Mr Vanderzalm.

 

“I’m certainly stopping now, for a couple of weeks more, or a bit longer yet, just to get my point across that they are a little bit out of control. Not a little bit out of control – just out of control.”

 

The 53-year-old former Queensland businessman bought Wycliffe four and a half years ago for $2m based on the turnover figures – and booze plays a major role in those. He says his customers are “my locals, from Ali Curung and that area.

 

“There was a killing. We were very upset about that killing. We see a lot of violence and we try to stop it as much as we can.

 

“We protect the women, we dob the blokes in. If the women won’t prosecute the blokes we will.”

 

Mr Vanderzalm does this by notifying the police, and prosecutions have followed, including one right now, he says.

 

“I’ve had meetings in my roadhouse, 40, 50, 60 people were there. We talked about violence, drinking, bad behaviour, the way they carry on. But it makes no difference.

 

“The next day it’s as if I never said a word. As if they didn’t hear it. A woman who’s been beaten, by the next day she will not press charges, doesn’t want to say anything about the bloke.

 

“But we will. We give statements to make sure that guy doesn’t get away with it.  We have zero tolerance to any bit of violence we see here.”

 

Do police act on these complaints? “Yes, they do.”

 

He says the women think this is “terrific. They are happy about that.”

 

Mr Vanderzalm says outside the tourism season in winter, his main business comes from Aborigines, buying groceries, fast food, fuel and alcohol: “They are our biggest customers.”

 

The liquor licence allows the purchase of 12 light beer stubbies, or eight mid-strength, or six full strength, or six “mixers” per person per day. But non-drinkers also buy their entitlement and pass it on.

 

Procuring alcohol is clearly a full-time objective for most locals: “They get six cans here, they go to Wauchope to get six. They can go to Tennant Creek [150 km north of Wycliffe] where they can get as much as they like.”

 

The young woman who was killed was at Wycliffe the day she died: “We refused her alcohol, twice,” says Mr Vanderzalm. “She was affected, a bit wobbly on her feet. Anyway, she went to Wauchope (photo below right) and didn’t make it through the night.

 

“We get a lot of finger pointing because we are closest to the community. They will get charged up anywhere but my place, but they end up at my place, falling out of their cars. People see they are blind drunk because they are rolling around in the dust out the front. In actual fact it’s very little to do with me when they got nothing off us.

 

“They are noisy, they scream and they fight, doing wheelies in their cars, punching up each-other. It’s no fun. Last thing you want to do is getting people drunk. Since we are selling no beer they still turn up drunk.”

 

Mr Vanderzalm says he plans to keep the roadhouse for another eight to 10 years. How will he deal with the problems?

 

“Nobody’s ever been able to deal with these problems in a long, long time. They tried everything. No-one’s come up with the answer. I think the only answer is, stop take-away, just get rid of it, especially near communities.

 

“You shouldn’t be able to buy it on the doorstep of a community. It’s too easy for them, just too easy.

 

“But that’s not going to be my responsibility, because I can’t afford that.”

Be Sociable, Share!

4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Billy
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Get yourself four heavy hitter bouncers. Spread the word. Have fun. Be nice. Or 86 with a good beat down, if challenged.
    Yours truly, Billy Skywalker, USA.

    View Comment
  2. Michael Liddle
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    The owner of Wycliffe hotel has to be commended. In applying his rules to shut down the take away access to liquor until such time he thinks is the right decision. The man has a responsibility to explain to his client group that this is not good behaviour! He will lose money but gain respect and piece of mind.
    But that’s just one issue. The real sad issue is the state of mind of some Aboriginal persons. Someone has just passed away and the next morning everyone is lining up for another tip. With no respect for the grieving family, no respect for themselves, as long as they can get a drink.
    Change of governments, BDR being reinstated, rehabilitation programmes – the list is endless.
    We Aboriginal people need to acknowledge the truth.
    We are running amok. Enough is enough!
    Change is needed!
    Choice is needed to make that change.
    Consequence will become from that choice.
    Good or bad.
    The story highlights that a bad choice was made which then led to a tragic consequence!

    View Comment
  3. Russell Guy
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Re your excellent reportage on the Wycliffe roadhouse. It’s the story I’ve been waiting for these past years. I’ve seen this three or four times recently with murder and violence as a result of alcohol-abuse.
    The reason why the blackfellas line up each day as if nothing has happened is because they are addicted to grog.
    The roadhouses are out of town (in our great and glorious bush) and can sell takeaway whenever they are open, unless someone is on a court order or when the BDR was in force.
    Regarding the owner’s statement: “I haven’t sold alcohol since. I don’t know how long I won’t be selling alcohol because I can’t afford not to sell it indefinitely. I’d go broke.” That underscores the quantity of mostly VB six packs roadhouses sell.
    His comment that they are “out of control” underscores the addiction. It’s an interconnected network – a new songline sung in the camps of the rivers of grog.
    Then there are the grog runners who bring the 30 can carry pack of VB from town with wine and Bundy bottles.
    Roadhouse management and staff generally have to tolerate or close, due to the situation spiraling out of control and in many cases, police are half an hour away or much more.
    “We get a lot of finger pointing because we are closest to the community. They will get charged up anywhere but my place, but they end up at my place, falling out of their cars. People see they are blind drunk because they are rolling around in the dust out the front. In actual fact it’s very little to do with me when they got nothing off us.” This comment underscores the connecting network of roadhouse supply between Alice and Tennant.
    “Nobody’s ever been able to deal with these problems in a long, long time. They tried everything. No-one’s come up with the answer. I think the only answer is, stop take-away, just get rid of it, especially near communities.” This refutes the BDR which was cut down as it began to bite into the situation and give the courts the ability to take it further.
    We would be so much further down the track now if the CLP hadn’t make that commitment to axe it, but hopefully, this report will go some way to showing some folks how unsustainable current legislation is.
    “You shouldn’t be able to buy it on the doorstep of a community. It’s too easy for them, just too easy.” This is true. No work, idle hands, easy access to grog and drunkeness, go hand in hand. Somewhere in that, there needs to be circuit-breakers – not just one, but two or three, i.e., work and/or supply restriction.
    It’s completely unreasonable to expect current supply to co-exist with bush communities. It’s a liberal recipe for continual disaster … it comes close to a subtle genocide by grog.
    “But that’s not going to be my responsibility, because I can’t afford that.” This comment really says it all. It amounts to government allowing the alcohol industry to self-regulate and use profitability as an argument, where people’s lives are counted in dollars.
    As a society, we have allowed the liberalisation of alcohol supply. The Wycliffe Well publican said that the blackfellas don’t listen to anything he says, well, whitefellers don’t either. The cost to public health has been well publicised.

    View Comment
  4. Posted May 12, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    In 1957 when I first came to the Territory (Tennant Creek), there wasn’t a grog problem, at least not among the Indigenous.
    In 1965 I left to serve in the Air Force and when I returned the grog problem was noticeable following the referendum in 1967.
    Since then, interested parties have tried various things to alleviate / remediate the problem and none has worked, or has only worked until the drinkers could circumvent it by e.g. changing from one form of alcohol to another.
    If someone could come up with a solution that works and patent it, they’d make a fortune.

    View Comment

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*