Two former Newcastle licensees have been served up fines totalling more than $20,000, after an investigation found their Darby Street restaurant was morphing into a nightclub after dark.
Samuel Luke and Sean Driver faced Newcastle Local Court last week, following a Liquor & Gaming NSW probe into their restaurant, Soho on Darby.
Mr Luke pleaded guilty to three offences and Mr Driver pleaded guilty to two offences, with all counts relating to selling and supplying liquor contrary to authority.
Mr Luke was fined $7500 and ordered to pay $5000 in professional costs, while Mr Driver was fined $3000 and was ordered to pay $5000 in professional costs.
Liquor & Gaming NSW director of compliance operations Sean Goodchild said the case sent a strong message to the industry that the misuse of a liquor licence would not be tolerated.
“We have investigated a number of recent cases where a venue with a restaurant licence operates as a nightclub or bar,” Mr Goodchild said.
“These business models misrepresent their activities and disregard strict obligations under NSW liquor laws, creating a far greater risk of alcohol-related harm.”
The popular Darby Street venue came under scrutiny last year, with Liquor & Gaming NSW carrying out a series of inspections.
They found the lower level of the restaurant empty and the upstairs area full, with 80 to 100 people standing, drinking and dancing in a nightclub-style environment.
In December last year the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority revoked the venue’s primary service authorisation, which allows drinks to be served without meals, so long as the venue is operating primarily as a restaurant.
At the time, Soho owner Sam Luke told the Newcastle Herald the venue was “considering its options moving forward”.
“Soho on Darby is disappointed … especially to the extent that the decision is based on incidents before the commencement of the current ownership and licensee,” he said.
“Soho has had security patrolling the venue since December 2016 every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8pm, when new conditions were put on the licence.
“We have had zero incidents relating to violence or antisocial beahviour since because of the great work our guards and RSA marshals do.”