"Ridiculous" cellar door tax slammed

Local wine producers have labelled the state government’s new liquor licencing fees as “ridiculous”, a move that will see cellar doors slugged with a new tax in a bid to curb alcohol-fuelled violence.

The state government announced amendments to the Liquor Act largely due to the public outcry over violence in Sydney CBD streets. 

But the move means small independent cellar doors, which play a major role in Young’s tourism industry, will be forced to pay the same base rate as hotels, clubs and bottle shops amounting to $500 annually. 

 Hilltops Harvest NSW Inc president and viticulturist Brian Mullany labelled the tax as “childish banter” that would be ineffective in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence.  

“It’s ridiculous and lacks common sense,” he said.

“I don’t know of any violent incident from a cellar door.

“Politicians need to be fair dinkum about it…we’re paying more than a takeaway liquor outlet.”

Mr Mullany said the distinction between drinking at a pub and visiting a cellar door was lost on the new licence fee laws. 

“The cellar door is there for wine tasting…how that can be compared to creating the same problems as a premises where you get drunk, it’s not comparable,” he said. 

“The new lockout law is a sensible law that’s actually helping reduce violence. This is a stupid law.”

Young tourism manager David Newberry said he was concerned the effect it could have on local tourism but was hopeful the relevant ministers will reconsider.

“Food and wine tourism are one of our state’s pillars of industry,” he said. 

A spokesperson for the Hospitality Minister Troy Grant said the winegrower’s concerns would be considered during the development of a fee waiver scheme.

“The NSW Government announced these changes in February,” the spokesperson said.

“Since Minister Grant took over the portfolio, he has met with and heard representations from industry and is working to finalise the exemptions framework by September. Fees are not due until May 2015.”

Those representations included letters from Hilltops Harvest, who wrote to Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, Member for Burrinjuck Katrina Hodgkinson and Minister Troy Grant expressing its opposition to the reforms.  

Greens Member of Parliament John Kaye said the risk-based licencing system is forcing cellar doors to pay a tax for a problem not of their making.

“The base charge may seem insignificant to the city hotels and clubs but will have a significant impact on the regional small businesses,” he said.

“Wine makers and cellar doors boost tourism, local industry and the economy. They promote a positive relationship with alcohol and pose almost no on-premises risk. Minister Grant should reconsider the regulation and introduce some nuance into the licensing categories.

“Likening a small independent cellar door to the large scale producers or wholesalers whose products are intended to be consumed in large quantities is arcane and disproportionate.”

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