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By Dan Hutton on May 3, 2017 in

Photo: Cyn Coco

Lately there has been a great detail of attention surrounding Randwick City Council’s decision to ban alcohol at Coogee Beach. However, in all of this, Council seems to have forgotten to consult small business operators — the ones who are impacted most by this change. Small business, as we know, is the backbone of our local economy, employing locals and driving investment in our local community.

The Coogee Chamber of Commerce represents over 100 small businesses throughout Coogee. For the past 22 years the chamber has been part of the fabric of our community and has been involved in raising money to support local charities such as the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick Offshore Rescue Boat, Caretakers Cottage, the Richie Benaud Cancer Fund, and Coogee Lions. It is the collective voice of many businesses in our area. That is why I was disappointed by Randwick City Council’s decision not to consult with affected business owners at Coogee Beach and the surrounding area.

Through my conversations with locals it has become increasingly clear that the vast majority of residents and business owners do not support the ban. I condemn the actions of those who took part in the impromptu gathering on Christmas Day that left the beach in such an appalling state. However, Council’s decision to give into media pressure and ultimately ban alcohol was not the right call.

Enforcing such bans will only move this type of social behaviour to other locations, such as Maroubra Beach and La Perouse. The argument that ‘businesses will profit’ simply doesn’t stack up, with there already being reports of a significant loss in foot traffic and patronage. The idea that I cannot responsibly enjoy a bottle of wine with my family by one of Sydney’s best beaches is just ridiculous. This ban has the potential to result in increased alcohol fuelled violence around licensed venues and will simply not fix the culture of drinking.

I’m sure I speak for many when I say that Council really should have engaged in meaningful and constructive conversation with all stakeholders, not just precinct committees, to implement the changes that are needed to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Additional temporary garbage bins on public holidays, more visible rangers who are willing to involve police when necessary, and appropriately placed signage highlighting Council’s policy, are all measures that don’t seem to have been adequately explored.

Local councils are the level of government closest to the people. They have the opportunity and resources to engage in consultation with all stakeholders, yet in this case haven’t done so. We all know that small businesses play a crucial role in growing our local economy, as well as bringing people in the community together.

We need a council that recognises the importance of its community and values its contribution.