Melbourne’s Freeze on Late-Night Liquor Licenses Raises Growing Concerns

September 09, 2022
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© Rachel Claire / Pexels

Liquor-freezing laws are chipping away Melbourne‘s clubbing cachet. When the clock ticks 1 AM, most dance-focused nightlife hubs are doing their warm-up – but for Melbourne clubs, that’s when the lights get turned on. 

In a metropolis known for its nightlife gem status quo, most music-fuelled venues have to close early due to a restrictive liquor license. It stipulates that liquor licenses after 1 AM cannot be issued for new venues, barring exceptions that are challenging to obtain. 

The government’s approach to issuing liquor licenses threatens businessmen venturing into hospitality industries, as they need to bank on purchasing venues with pre-existing liquor licenses. 

Daragh Kan, ex-owner of now-closed nightclub Mercat, told The Guardian that running a nightlife venue with a 1 AM license “is not really going to work.” 

“So if you want to start a new club, you’re reliant on finding another venue with a pre-existing license.” 

The liquor-freezing laws might not be as restrictive as COVID-19 lockdown rules, but they are still chipping away Melbourne’s nightlife. According to VGCCC data (a supplying liquor regulator), Melbourne’s number of active late-night liquor licenses decreased by 10% since 2014, although the population increased by 13%. 

While these laws are no stranger to Melbourne’s clubbing scene – they’ve been dictating the city’s nightlife since 2008 – business owners are witnessing how liquor-freezing laws are progressively corroding Melbourne’s venues. 

In 2008, the Brumby government attempted to introduce a 2 AM lockout, which was quickly overturned by a wave of popular resistance. Instead, it introduced a late-night liquor license freeze across inner city councils to combat alcohol-related violence. 

Over the years, both Labor and Liberal governments have been constantly renewing the laws. 


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