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Late-night pub shuts its doors

BAD BEHAVIOUR: Licensing problems are behind the decision to close the doors of Grafton’s Post Office Hotel. Photo: Adam Hourigan
BAD BEHAVIOUR: Licensing problems are behind the decision to close the doors of Grafton’s Post Office Hotel. Photo: Adam Hourigan

RIGOROUS policing of liquor-licensing laws is the major reason for the imminent closure of one of Grafton's late-night trading hotels, claims the owner.

The Post Office Hotel will open for the last time tomorrow night, ending a tradition of late-night entertainment at the venue stretching back decades.

Pub owners Don and Judy Ward said the main reason for the decision is the increasingly stringent policing of liquor-licensing laws.

Mr Ward said the hotel was facing 40 breaches of the laws. The breaches will receive their first mention in Grafton Local Court on September 8.

He said each breach costs him about $2500, on average, to defend.

The Wards bought the hotel six years ago and ran it themselves for three years before leasing it out in late 2011. The couple took back the reins about 18 months ago.

Mr Ward said breaches included patrons concealing alcoholic drinks and taking them off the premises, the behaviour of patrons outside the pub and incidents inside the hotel.

He said the hotel had been in breach of the laws before, including 15 times a few years ago during a July Racing Carnival.

"It got to the stage we didn't open during the racing carnival," he said.

"They're making it too tough. I can make more money by closing it than leaving it open."

Mr Ward said the couple will hand in their liquor licence, but will retain ownership of the building.

He said there had been some tentative interest from a person looking to open a coffee shop in the premises.

Mr Ward said he would retain the upstairs accommodation at the hotel to cover its costs, including rates and maintenance.

He was also in negotiations with Clarence Valley Council over two blocks of land behind the hotel required for hotel parking.

Coffs Clarence Police Command crime manager Detective Inspector Darren Jameson said he could not comment specifically on any hotel's performance, but made no apologies for the way the liquor-licensing laws had been enforced.

He confirmed a hotel in Victoria St, Grafton, had been in breach of the laws 40 times and the offences were listed for September 8.

Det Insp Jameson said the number of breaches was the highest he had seen in his time in the Coffs Clarence Command.

"Most of the breaches deal with failing to comply with liquor-licensing requirements," he said.

He said there were licensed premises in the command that receive more scrutiny based on their risk to the community through the behaviour of their patrons and how they manage their business, but would not say if the Grafton Post Office Hotel was one of them.

Det Insp Jameson said the matters were for the court to determine.

PM AT THE PO

FORMER Prime Minister Bob Hawke has been a guest at Grafton's Post Office Hotel.

Mr Hawke visited Grafton soon after Harry Woods won the seat and was leaving the former ABC Radio office in Victoria St, Grafton, after finishing an interview.

Mr Woods' media adviser at the time, David Bancroft, recalled Mr Hawke agreed to do a street walk.

"As we walked past the PO, he looked at the hotel and said I stayed a night in there," he said.

Mr Bancroft said it would have been when Mr Hawke was the president of the ACTU.

Topics:  coffs clarence local area command, grafton, liquor licensing, post office hotel




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