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Booze Ban Divides Embattled Coogee Community

By Em Allen on April 1, 2014 in

Picture: Arthur Allen

Picture: Arthur Allen

Embattled Coogee residents look set to continue to lock horns over the consumption of alcohol in the reserves and around the beach during daylight hours following a decision by Randwick City Council to conduct a community consultation on the matter.

The decision follows the imposition of a proposed 24/7 ban on Coogee and Clovelly’s beachside reserves, as well as Gordon’s Bay, and the subsequent rescission of that ban 16 days later.

“A 24-hour ban is a last resort approach and something that is not needed. I appreciate that some others have a different view,” Randwick Mayor Scott Nash said upon announcing the decision.

“Many of these areas, such as Goldstein Reserve at Coogee Beach, are already subject to a night-time ban. I feel this is a sensible and balanced approach.”

In a bid to strike a balance, however, the council has resolved to change the alcohol prohibition laws at Goldstein Reserve in Coogee to operate between 6pm and dawn, rather than the vague and undefinable hours of dusk till dawn. It has said these changes will come into effect as soon as signage can be created and installed.

The proposed ban on booze has fiercely divided the Coogee community, with hundreds of people signing petitions both for and against the motion.

The main objections of those in favour of an outright ban say the current rules encourage unsociable and intimidating behaviour as revellers come to Coogee because they are unable to drink on the beachside reserves of neighbouring suburbs.

In contrast, those against the ban say it is punishing the majority of people who behave responsibly when they gather with friends and family for a picnic and a few drinks near the beach.

Rona Wade, secretary of Coogee Precinct Committee, is strictly opposed to the consumption of alcohol on the beachside reserves. She said the council needs to move to bring Randwick in line with the bans in place in neighbouring Waverley and other beachside areas in Sydney such as Manly and Cronulla.

“Over the years residents have witnessed or experienced drunken behaviour in parks. This includes intimidation and abuse of others, drunken nudity, urinating in public and using people’s property as a public toilet,” she said.

“There is also evidence that people from other parts of Sydney with a 24/7 ban are coming to Coogee to drink to excess. As well as the unsavoury nature of what goes on, there is also concern for the safety and wellbeing of those drinking to excess and the high incidence of underage drinkers.”

Bream Street resident Glenn Uzell is against the ban. Mr Uzell, who has lived in Coogee for six years, said he signed the petition to reverse the proposal as it would discriminate against those who drink responsibly.

“The main issue I have is that it is punishing the majority who behave very well and continue to do so. I have never once encountered any issue with drunk people or intoxication. The police patrol regularly and are polite when it is time to move on,” he said.

Mr Uzell added that enforcing the ban would be detrimental to the local community as it would drive locals and visitors away from the area and change the atmosphere that the good weather brings to Coogee.

“Where will parents go to unwind with their kids? I’m sure parents like to have the odd tipple on a hot sunny day while their kids enjoy themselves. It will also further entice the local pubs to push up prices, which are ridiculous right now, as demand soars,” he said.

Randwick Council has confirmed the new 6pm curfew but said an outright ban will not be put in place. It added that Coogee residents, rather than visitors to Coogee, will be invited to share their views when it launches a community consultation on the matter in due course, as well as other issues affecting the local area.