It’s Time To Raise The Bar in South Australia

As panelist Stan Mahoney (Director, Format) explained at Renew Adelaide’s forum, The Cultural Impact of Licensing and Regulation for Small Venues and Bars, “None of us have any money, so occasionally we like to sell drinks to people who do, so that we can pay the rent. But none of us want to make any kind of living out of running a venue. We apply for a series of temporary licences and are more or less at the mercy of the Commissioner’s shifting definition of “occasional”. We don’t really know what occasional means…”

So began the evening, in a series of what could be described as comical tales; with each licensee providing examples of the licensing hoops which Adelaide’s small bars and artist run initiatives must jump through in the hope of appeasing SA’s liquor licensing commission.

Around 120 people filled the Jade Monkey venue on Twin Street. Other speakers included Nina Jerebica (Suzie Wong’s Room), Cassandra Tombs (Tuxedo Cat), Andrew Wallace (Adelaide West End Association), Lois Boswell (Department of Premier and Cabinet), Ianto Ware (Renew Adelaide) and John Wardle (Licensing Policy Agitator, NSW).

Consisting of policy makers, venue managers and artists, the audience generally conceded that things need to change, and swiftly. A campaign which has seen much success in NSW, Raise The Bar, was launched by John Wardle on the night, to much applause. Raise The Bar is a website where concerned members of the public can type in their postcode, and send an email to their local Member of Parliament and every member of the Legislative Council, requesting that they address the current licensing laws. Within 48 hours of launching the campaign had attracted over 1000 supporters, with Green MLC Tammy Franks (who attended the forum) confirming on Twitter that at one stage a campaign email was arriving every minute.

Wardle said “Liquor laws are not delivering the best cultural environment for the people of South Australia. Current licence categories and conditions are out of step with other Australian states and territories, and should be modernised. The South Australian hospitality industry and arts sector need a more nurturing system, to suit contemporary audiences, communities, and markets.”

Ware said “South Australia's cultural and creative sector is struggling in the face of outdated licensing laws which have decreased the volume of small music, arts and theatre venues, as well as limiting the diversity of small business geared towards an early evening economy. With the new licensing fees, combined with a convoluted legal process, it can easily cost $30,000 more to set up such an enterprise here in comparison to the other states. If we want to rebuild the audience for our city and main streets, we need to bring these licensing and development laws into the 21st century and allow smaller and more culturally focused businesses to flourish.”

To join the campaign, head to

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