The owner of a restaurant in Sydney, Australia, claims police have questioned his staff over a tongue-in-cheek sign advertising “free wine” and an “antisocial” menu that listed wine prices by the glass Giovanni Paradiso, one of the proprietors of Paddington’s 10 William Street, posted a picture of the menu on Instagram, claiming New South Wales police had said the wine list was “promoting unsavoury antisocial behaviour”. “SYDNEY WHAT THE F*CK IS HAPPENING,” he wrote, echoing discontent within the city’s entertainment and hospitality industries over stringent regulations and perceived “nanny state” laws.
Paradiso said that officers had been checking on nearby pubs on Saturday when they entered the Italian eatery and expressed concern over a blackboard listing available wines, which they said was too close to the door, promoted heavy drinking and did not make clear the venue also served food.
They also took issue with a sign posted outside that read “Real wine, free wine”, a light-hearted reference to the restaurant’s additive-free beverages, he said.
He said there was “an undercurrent of disappointment among venue owners” and much confusion over drinking and dining regulations.
“We’re very, very frustrated,” he said.
On Saturday the New South Wales government announced a one-year extension to its ban on all new pub and club licenses in Kings Cross and Sydney’s centre, which, along with “lockout laws” banning people from entering premises after 1.30am, have been blamed for dampening nightlife in the city.
Critics of the lockout laws, which are currently under review, say 13 venues in Kings Cross have been shut down since they were implemented in January 2014.
State crime statisticians reported in April that since the lockouts were introduced assaults had dropped by 32% in King’s Cross and 40% in the Sydney CBD.
But they cautioned it was not yet clear whether the fall was related to less alcohol consumption or a drop in foot traffic.
Alcohol-fuelled assaults at Sydney’s Star casino, which is exempt from the lockouts, jumped 88% in the months after the laws were introduced.
NSW police confirmed that officers had patrolled 155 venues to enforce compliance with liquor laws on Friday and Saturday evening, finding 12 breaches.
A spokesman declined to comment on 10 William Street specifically but said: “It is common for police to provide advice to licensees regarding potential licensing breaches or issues during business inspections.”