Published: September 02, 2019

Adelaide’s small bars and diners have put more than 1200 people in jobs, helped city-goers feel safer and decreased alcohol-fuelled violence, a new Adelaide University report shows.

The Contribution of Small Venues to Economic Opportunity report, released today, estimates 1250 jobs — 685 full time — have been created since the introduction of small venue licence legislation in 2013.

As of December 2018, 109 venues were operating with the licence, and 13 licences were pending.

Small venues, about 80 per cent of which are bars, have improved the culture of the city, said the study’s author, associate professor Michael O’Neil.

“The previous Attorney-General John Rau was trying to change the culture of meeting places, of drinking, and really to respond to what was consumer demand,” Mr O’Neil, of the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, said.

“A lot of people weren’t going to hotels because they don’t like the larger venues, or electronic gaming machines.

“These (small) venues are more intimate and people, particularly young women, said they feel safer there.”

A 2016 Adelaide City Council and Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education study of Peel St, Waymouth St and two sections of Hindley St found the mix small and medium venues resulted in less crowding, vomiting, public urination, drunkenness and sexual activity than areas with larger night clubs or 24-hour venues.

The small venue licence restricts capacity to 120 patrons and mandates a 12am lockout, except for venues granted an extended licence to 2am.

Prior to the small venue legislation, which was formed as part of the Liquor and Licensing Act 1997, any small business that wished to supply alcohol would likely have applied for a hotel licence, which requires stringent needs testing.

Before Adelaide’s small bar boom, there had been only a 0.8 per cent increase in the number of hotel licence grants between June 2005 and May 2016.

Part Time Lover chef Stewart Wesson, manager and co-owner Luke Turton and co-owner Josh Baker Picture: Tom Huntley


Hospitality entrepreneur Josh Baker worked with Mr Rau on new legislation to open the first of Adelaide’s laneway bars, Clever Little Tailor, in 2013.

“A special circumstances licence in that era was open to objection from venues with a restaurant licence, hotel licence or nightclub licence.

“So we knew were going to get an objection.

“It just so happened that we were at the right time and at the right place and Rau wanted to do this new legislation.”

Mr O’Neil said the legislation has also helped retain young people in the state.

“The small venues in Peel St, Bank St, Peel St et cetera — the majority are owned by younger people, and they’re owner-manager,” Mr O’Neill said.

“It started something,” Mr Baker said.

“Not only did it change the Peel street — a place that used to be the scariest laneway in Adelaide — it also gave hope to young entrepreneurs, that they could have a crack at something without getting objections.”


And, he said, success breeds success with staff put through wine and hospitality courses and going on to create their own businesses.

“It has changed the landscape of Adelaide,” Mr Baker said.

We’ve got about 120 small bars — new venues giving people opportunity and creating the incredible operators that we have here in Adelaide.

“And we support wine makers, small gin distillers, food producers, farmers — it’s been a really smart thing for the city.”

New study finds small bars laws a force for cultural change by Jessica Galletly originally seen in the Sunday Mail 1 September, 2019.

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