Regulator cracks down on Darby Street restaurant

HOUSE RULES: Soho on Darby will only be allowed to serve drinks with meals after a NSW Liquor and Gaming Authority investigation.A POPULAR Darby Street restaurantis “considering its options” after itsliquor license was tightenedfollowing an investigation whichfound the restaurant “morphed” into a venue resembling a bar or nightclub.
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Police concerns over anti-social behaviour and assaults prompted complianceofficers to make a complaint to theNSW Liquor and Gaming Authority in July.

After an investigation, the authority announced on Wednesday it had revoked Soho’s “primary service authorisation”, which will prevent the restaurant from serving drinks without an order offood.

The authorisation allows alcohol to be served without meals provided the business’s primary purpose remains a restaurant.

The new conditions follow noise and patron capacity restrictions imposed on the venue last year.

The authority said compliance officers and police observed the first floor of the restaurantoperating with a DJ, no tables and chairs and few patrons who were eating a meal on “numerous” occasions.

Soho on Darby said it was ‘disappointed’ by the authority’s decision and was ‘considering its options’ going forward.

Police data also showed there had been 9 assaults and five patrons charged with anti-social behaviour between July, 2015, and August, 2016.

The investigation primarily relied on photographs, CCTV footage, policeand sales data.

The authority said no staff could be seen in the kitchen and the venue had a limited menu.

It was alsoalleged 95 per cent of all evening sales were for alcohol, but that figurewas disputed bythe licensee.

In its submission, the restaurant supplied 55 pages of Facebook screenshots that promoted various offers including “$4 tacos and DJ entertainment” on Wednesday and “50c wing night” on Thursday.

And the licensee argued evidence produced by compliance officers were “reached by limited observations”.

However, compliance officers alleged the venue “quickly changed from a ‘traditional restaurant’ to a ‘nightclub’ targeting a younger demographic with associated promotions of cheap alcohol drinks, particularly sweet cocktails”.

Liquor and Gaming NSW director of compliance Sean Goodchild warned:“We have investigated a number of recent cases where restaurants have effectively morphed into nightclubs or bars which have far higher risks of alcohol-related harms including violence, anti-social behaviour and disturbance.”

Soho owner Sam Luke said 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 license.

“Wehave had zeroincidents relating to violence or antisocial behaviour since because of the great work our guards and RSA marshals do.

“Soho is considering its options moving forward.”

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