Govt probe: Were they drinking seated or standing?

p2135-Monte's-2

ABOVE: Patrons at  Monte’s for the recent launch of Revolution Day by the Super Raelene Brothers.

 

p2135-Monte's-artBy ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Booze kills one in 10 people dying in the Northern Territory which, by a factor of three, has Australia’s highest proportion of all deaths related to alcohol, according to a report just released.

 

The Foundation for Alcohol Research says the nation’s figure is 3.9% and the states range from SA (3.3%) to WA (4.7%).

 

The Territory figure is 11.8%.

 

You’d assume that this life-and-death issue would have the undivided attention of the  NT Licensing Commission.

 

You’d be wrong.

 

The commission carried out an investigation into Monte’s Lounge; inspectors visited the venue on five days between June 2 and September 7 last year; the commission considered a complaint from Director of Licensing Karen Avery; it conducted a hearing, questioned witnesses, pondered a decision and issued a 12-page document entitled Reasons for Decision, dealing with questions including the following:-

 

• Were patrons of Monte’s Lounge sitting down or standing up when they were having a drink?
• Were they dancing?
• Was a BBQ being used and were hot dogs for sale?

 

Monte’s is in the CBD, not in a residential area. There are residences some distance away but not in the immediate vicinity.

 

There were two complaints, says the document. The complainants are not named. Monte’s “nominee and proprietor” Matt Mulga is named in the public document.

 

Monte’s, to judge by the crowd frequenting it, is highly popular, clearly a very convincing expression of the public’s view which the commission is obliged to have account of.

 

By contrast the Town & Country and Bojangles up the road are both closed, and the Memo Club is just re-opening after being closed for more than two years.

 

Mr Mulga told the commission:-
• There had been no neighbourhood complaint in the last one and a half years.
• He had not had minors nor served minors on the premises.
• He had not sold alcohol to an intoxicated patron.

 

These assertions were not contested.

 

The government’s noise monitoring officer, Peter Bannister, seems to have hit the nail on the head when he told the commission: “I really think that we should act on complaints only. Some people do not mind the disturbance and others abhor it. At least Matt Mulga has given the main complainant in those nearby flats his phone number.”

 

Monte’s has a noise control device. At a specified high sound or decibel level, a light shows red following which power is cut and then must be reset for music to be broadcast.

 

Allegations that the device at times was switched off or faulty were partly admitted, partly contested.

 

“In relation to noise and the operation of the sound control device contraventions the Commission finds the evidence presented to be inconclusive on some of the nights in question. There is little doubt however that there was contravention of the noise and entertainment condition, as admitted by Mr Mulga, on the night of 27 July 2013,” the commission found.

 

It accepts that “the objects of the Act which identify as the primary purpose the minimisation of harm associated with the consumption of liquor, noting there has been no identified harm.”

 

Yet there were government inspectors snooping on people engaged in harmless fun, obtaining video footage, and making observations such as “large numbers of patrons standing, in contravention to the requirement for patrons to be seated … video footage taken at the time which showed cabaret performers on the stage and people standing and walking around with drinks … allowing a dance floor to operate at the front of the venue … patrons not eating or seated at tables.

 

And: Video footage taken after 2am was viewed which showed people standing around, some with drinks while some other patrons were on the dance floor. Inspector Cassidy submitted to the Commission that the video footage confirmed that people were not seated and that the premise did not have the appearance of a restaurant.

 

And: Patrons were standing in the forecourt … the dance floor was operational.

 

Should people be allowed to dance? This is what the commission thinks: “A literal interpretation of the licence conditions may interpret the activity of dancing as not consistent with the ‘appearance of a restaurant’ licence condition. However, complicating this is the statement by Inspector Wade to the effect that it is OK for patrons at Monte’s to dance, assuming they return to their seats afterwards.”

 

The commission says: “The success of Monte’s Lounge innovative approach is being achieved at a time when the tourism and domestic market is at a low point and a large proportion of Alice Springs licensed premises are facing patronage and related fiscal challenges.

 

“It should also be noted that the Monte’s brand contrasts to the ‘swill until there is a blue’ atmosphere that some other premises in the past may have tolerated or allowed.”

 

That, surely raises the question: is it not time for the grog controllers to focus on the real issues?

 

Mr Mulga was fined $2500.

 

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12 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. Peter Hoey
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Don’t know enough to comment too much but perhaps the licensee may need to get the licence modified to allow greater freedom of movement. Should be easy to check sound volumes on a regular basis.
    Perhaps drinking sitting down is better as there is less distance to fall and those who can’t stay in their chair could be deemed to be drunk and asked to leave, one problem solved.

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  2. Craig
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Hi Matt, the nearby resident you refer to did contact you on a particularly noisy evening.
    You responded stating what time the music would cease but did not decrease the noise.
    You also contacted them at 1.22am one morning requesting to know where they lived (inappropriate in the extreme).
    And yes, this message was saved for possible future action. Please, you are not a victim here.

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  3. Erwin Chlanda
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

    @ Julie Robertson, posted August 6, 2014 at 9:49 am – Thanks for your comment, Julie. The conditions of the license, including drinking standing up or sitting down, is what this story is about, plus people’s right of choice of their entertainment venue. We are also raising questions about how these matters compare, in terms of priority for the commission, and its past record, to the matters of life and death in our community, also referred to by Russell Guy, posted August 3, 2014 at 4:51 pm. Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

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  4. Matt Mulga
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 10:16 am

    In reply to the comment by Craig. Of the 16 units nearby, three years ago there was a complaint by one resident only. We door-knocked the block of flats, and spoke to each of the other residents and no one else expressed any issues.
    I supplied the concerned resident with my mobile number, and modified the way we have presented live music, often by starting the event early and presenting other entertainment on the Todd Street side of the building that runs till later.
    I believe the one concerned resident has appreciated my efforts and has not raised any concerns with me for some time, and he, nor any of the other residents objected to our recent application for an open licence.
    Craig, I invite you to supply more information of these nearby residents with children forced from their homes either here, or to myself, or through the editor of this website for I think this is false and that you have a hidden agenda behind your comment.

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  5. Julie Robertson
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Monte’s has always traded illegally irrespective of what people believe to be true or not. They have a restaurant licence only.
    Why don’t you do your research properly Erwin? It seems that you always want to support the venue and Matt Mulga and never bring in to your story the conditions of the restaurant licence.
    If he wants to do this legally, let him apply for the correct Licence, which I’m sure he would get.
    As for the sound machine, it is easily bypassed by an extension cord, and Liquor knows this.
    What are your thoughts on smoking in a restaurant? Monte’s allows this. Are we in Bali?
    $2500 is chicken feed to Monte’s. I consider that pretty cheap as they constantly breach the licence by their own admission.

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  6. Russell Guy
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    @ Bev. Posted August 5, 2014. 8:48am.
    At a recent conference on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the point was made that excessive alcohol compromised male semen could play a significant role in the conception of an FASD-afflicted child, so it’s not just the mother who carries the responsibility.
    The question of responsibility for FASD is yet to be acknowledged beyond the excessive levels of alcohol consumption of men and women who engage in sexual relations.
    This is one of the developing issues in the Australia-wide campaign for governments on behalf of citizens and the unborn child and more so here in the NT as the statistics in this story reveal.
    Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder “is an umbrella term given to a range of conditions caused by alcohol exposure during pregnancy. There is no agreed way of screening, diagnosing or even defining the condition”.

    Signs and symptoms of FASD:
    • Low birth weight
    • Small head circumference
    • Failure to thrive
    • Feeding problems
    • Sensitivity to noise, touch and / or light
    • Developmental delay.

    In an older child:
    • Learning difficulties
    • Developmental delays
    • Attention deficit / hyperactivity / ADHD
    • Memory problems
    • Difficulties with social relationships
    • Impulsiveness
    • Inappropriate behaviour
    • Poor understanding of consequences
    • Major organ damage

    Source: NT Centre for Disease Control, April 2014.

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  7. Craig
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Just to clarify. There are sixteen units 30 to 40 meters away from Monte’s. They have been subjected to noise since Monte’s opened several years ago.
    There have been countless noise complaints regarding Monte’s including quite recently. Many residents, particularly those with children, have been forced out of their homes due to uncontrolled noise.
    Mr Mulga has shown nothing but contempt to those living in the vicinity of his restaurant / nightclub.

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  8. Bev
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:48 am

    As the wife of a now deceased alcoholic who at the time of his death was oozing alcohol from the pores of his skin I see both sides of the story.
    He drank himself to death – the basic issue – self esteem. I on the other hand was quite capable of going into a place having no or one drink and walking out.
    My husband went on several drying out programs over his life and at once stage stayed away from the alcohol for seven years. He was worse when he started drinking cheap wine.
    Yes, people who cannot control what they drink should be banned but those who wish to go out and enjoy themselves while remaining sober or near sober should be allowed to.
    Yes, I do believe that take away alcohol can be a big problem – the cause of this is the half life of alcohol. Those who drink regularly especially for long periods always have a level of alcohol in their blood which if they drink a day or so after being drunk adds to the problem.
    Yes, pregnant women should never drink because what they take in passes over the placenta to the baby and can cause deformities.
    A person who has been and alcoholic but stopped drinking should never risk another drink because of the risk of the craving starting again.
    However, there are some that can handle it and perhaps have a drink once every couple of weeks without wanting to have more than one or two.
    I don’t believe that banning alcohol altogether is necessary but I don’t believe in allowing people, especially teens, to get away with either spiking drinks or forcing someone to drink just so they can see what happens when they get drunk.
    The key again is sensible behaviour and being responsible for yourself and having consideration for those around you and those who are reliant on you. Know your limitations and respect others’ rights as well as your own.

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  9. Russell Guy
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 9:25 am

    @ Mark Fitzgerald,
    Don’t know if the Browns still have their cows, but I hope the information contained within my post is of value to all consumers of alcohol, as I hope my two and a half year period of reporting on the alcohol industry in the NT has also been of some benefit to those who drink responsibly or otherwise. I sure have learned a thing or two and hope you have too. Best.

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  10. Mark FItzgerald
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 5:43 am

    I’m sorry Russell, what in browns cow does your statement have to do with Monte’s being fined?
    Seems to me that Monte’s is engaged in the responsible service of alcohol, while some do-gooders are pushing their own agendas.
    It’d be interesting to see if someone sues the liquor commission if they receive DVT for being made to sit for too long.

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  11. Hal Duell
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Twice on recent ABC news programs the focus was on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in the Barclay region.
    It was conservatively estimated that up to 500 children have been born with this disorder, and that the cost to the Australian taxpayer for the special care these individuals will need over the course of their lives will be in the order of one billion dollars.
    And that’s only in the Barclay.
    I wonder how much the patrons of Monte’s will be costing the Australian taxpayer for walking from table A to table B with a drink in their hand. Or, horror of horrors, dancing.
    Often we hear talk about the need to keep young residents of Alice in Alice. I suggest that Monte’s does, and has done from its opening, more than most to further that goal.
    Get off Matt’s back, Liquor Licensing Commission. You have been on his case from the beginning, and meanwhile, also on your watch, those damaged children keep on being born. Priorities, anyone?

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  12. Russell Guy
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Whilst there are enquiries currently looking into Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), including the damage done by excessive alcohol consumption to the genetic disposition of both male and female, and harmful levels of drinking within the Indigenous community (hopefully taking account of the terms of the roadhouse licence and its ability to furnish full-strength take-away six-packs of beer seven days per week during opening hours, largely benefited by passive welfare), one is struck by the severity of health warnings now appearing on tobacco products.
    When these begin to make an appearance on alcohol industry products, perhaps liberal supply and its cost to the community, may prompt a revolution of critical thinking among the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll generations.
    While “smoking causes blindness” is accompanied by a diseased eye staring out of a tobacco product, one wonders what will accompany alcohol products when FASD afflicted children become a critical factor in the NT?
    It’s not difficult to speculate on what the NT will become with alcohol industry political party campaign donations and party leadership continuing to pitch the values of drinking as a core cultural component, whilst resisting calls to focus on the real issues. We never thought we were this stupid.

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