Licensing Court 1908 hearings

From Hotels of Ballarat

The Licensing Court hearings in 1908 were held by the License Reduction Board to dramatically reduce the number of hotel licenses in the district.

Hearings[edit | edit source]

The hearings were held over a one month period:

Weeding Out the Hotels. DECISIONS OF THE LICENSES. REDUCTION BOARD. NUMBER OF HOUSES CLOSED. COMPENSATION AWARDS FOR SURRENDERED LICENSES. The Licenses Reduction Board—Messrs Andrews (chairman), Barr, and Gumming—sat at the Supreme Court yesterday, and announced what hotels they had decided to close, on or before the 31st December in the Ballarat and surrounding districts. They also made known the amount of compensation with regard to the surrendered licenses. There was a large attendance of persons interested in the liquor trade while the results were being announced. The board’s decisions, with accompanying comments, were as follows: AWARDS. The cases heard for the purpose of fixing compensation were those of 10 surrendered hotels in what may be described as the Ballarat, Clunes, and Creswick districts. Two of these hotels had been destroyed by fire, and the others, were occupied by the owners. In only two cases were the trade returns placed before the board reasonably complete. The board does what it can, with the imperfect material placed before it, to arrive at a fair conclusion as to the amount of compensation payable, but it cannot regard with satisfaction the position of having to make awards under such circumstances. It recognises the great difficulties which licensees and those representing them have to contend with, where past licensees are no longer available, and where no trade records have been kept. The board would, however, point out that this matter is of so much importance, not only to licensees, but to owners, who have to prove that the rents submitted were fair rents, that systematic steps, ought to be taken by all licenses and owners to obtain and tabulate the trade returns, for the Statutory period of 1903, 1904, and 1905, as far as is now possible. The board also recognises that many licensees have in the past neglected to properly record the amounts of their purchases, expenses, and takings, and, of course, past lapses cannot now be completely remedied; but there is no excuse for the continuance of such neglect, particularly in view of existing legislation. Where licensees in future fail to produce reasonably full records of their current and recent business transactions, they must expect to have adverse inferences drawn by the board. In the majority of the cases dealt with the owners were also the licensees, and the usual difficulty of arriving at what would be a fair rent presented itself. Age, infirmity, want of aptitude, and other personal reasons were given why the trade done should not be taken as the index, but that expert evidence as to the ruling rents for hotels in similar positions and with similar opportunities, should be accepted and acted upon. Where these views have, to a certain extent, been adopted, the effect, as in cases previously dealt with, has been to reduce the owner’s interest as licensee to a nominal figure. In cases where hotels have not already closed, nor will not be closed forthwith, the board, following its previously announced policy, does not at this stage fix the actual compensation, the amounts appended being the maximum amounts payable, but unless special reasons arise, these sums will not be varied.[1]

BALLARAT HOTELS. TWENTY-SIX HOUSES TO CLOSE. BALLARAT, Monday.After a month's inquiry concerning 47 hotels in Ballarat and the surrounding districts, the Licenses Reduction Board this afternoon announced what hotels were to be closed, and the compensation to be paid to the interested parties in hotels which surrendered their licenses. Mr. Andrews said that the congestion of hotels in Ballarat West was most marked in the centre of the business portion. The board recognized that an hotel must be a convenience to some persons, but had to consider whether public requirements would be interfered with by closing certain places. In deciding this, situation, structure, and accommodation had been considered. In Ballarat East there were only two more hotels than the statutory number. In the suburban areas and country districts the needs of travellers had to be studied, and, in doing this, it had in some instances been difficult to decide between rival houses. This difficulty had in some cases resulted in both hotels being left to be dealt with at a future sitting of the board. Since the list of hotels recommended for closing had been prepared several licenses had been surrendered, and that had affected them in regard to the number of places to be delicensed by deprivation, because the board's work was governed by the amount of money available for compensation.[2]

Board's findings[edit | edit source]

LICENSED HOUSES CLOSED. Owing to the results of local option polls and the recent rearrangement of electoral boundaries, we have to face the position that in Ballarat East the existing number of hotels is only two in excess of the statutory number, while in Ballarat West there is an excess of 47. The Board has already intimated that it looks at a city or town as a whole, and not so much at the individual licensing districts it may contain, and also that in dealing with a large centre like Ballarat the requirements and convenience not only of the residents, but of the visiting and travelling public must be taken into consideration. The congestion of hotels in Ballarat West is most marked in the centre of the business portion and one or two sections just outside it, and the Licensing Inspector brought forward a list of 17 houses, six of which came within the provisions of Subsections A and B of Section 44 of the Licensing Act of 1906, and the remainder were alleged to be not required, and were situated in various parts of the licensing district.

Section 44 above referred to directs the Board to consider the convenience of the public and the requirements of the several localities in the district, and, subject to such consideration, to deal in the first place with houses coming within Subsection A, that is against which there have been within three years two convictions for certain specified offences, and in the next place with houses coming within Subsection B, that is, having one such conviction. The meaning of this section has been fully discussed in prior judgments of the Board, and has been the subject of an appeal to the Full Court, and therefore need not be elaborated here. But it has been clearly laid down that it is the duty of the Board to deal first with the “A” houses and to put them first to the test, and to a stringent test, as to whether the deprivation of their licenses will prove a substantial interference with public convenience. If it will, then the proviso in the section saves them. If not, it is the duty of the Baord to deprive them of their licenses. Having considered and dealt with the houses in Class “A” the Board has next to look at those in Class “B,” and put them to the test, before passing on to deal with houses that are in other classes. The Board, has already pointed out that every, hotel must be a convenience to some class of persons or else it would have, ceased to exist, but to decide whether it is a requirement of the locality, regard must be had to its situation, the status of the locality itself, the accommodation offered by the hotel, and the class and extent of business done.

In respect of the houses in the “A" list, one is in a very central 'situation, in a main street, close to the railway station, an exceptionally large building, with ample accommodation, catering, and apparently catering well, for a class of trade that does not seem to be over-provided for in the district, The other, though not in the business portion of the city, is situated at an important corner on a tram route, is a substantial brick building, and apparently caters for the wants of a very large residential neighborhood. Most of the houses in the "B” list are either, from position or building supplying accommodation of a nature, that, if withdrawn, would in our opinion seriously inconvenience the public. Where on the other hand a house in this list, though slightly better in position or building than its' neighbors, is practically supplying merely the same class, of accommodation, we consider that its claims are not sufficient to outweigh the fact of being dealt with in priority to other houses. The hotels in the “D” class which the Board has included in its list to be closed, are those where the situation, accommodation and congestion all indicate that they are not required. In view of the congestion in the centre of the city, and the various considerations that have to, be regarded there, the Board thinks, it desirable to have a more extended list, and consequently a wider area of selection, when dealing with hotels in that portion of the district outside the “A' and “B" lists.’

In Ballarat East the very small excess above the statutory number makes it necessary to carefully regard all the aspects of the district. The three houses brought before the Board in the B list are in the business portion of the district, and after a careful inspection we do not consider that any of them should be dispensed with at this stage. With regard to the other licensing districts dealt with, they consist in some cases of suburban localities extending into the surrounding country, and in others are purely country districts, where the convenience of the travelling public as well as the residents has to be considered. It is often difficult to decide between the competing claims of houses in the townships and roadside houses, as well as be tween those situated in different parts of the same township. Where, after hearing the evidence given in respect of the house in the list, and after visiting the locality and carefully inspecting that house and its neighbor, the Board has felt doubtful as to which should be closed; it has decided to leave both to be heard and dealt with at a future sitting. But where on the other hand it felt that the house in the list does not satisfy the requirements of the public in the same manner or to the same extent as that not in the list, and where one can be dispensed with, it has been decided that the former shall be closed. Since the list was prepared and for warded to the board by the licensing inspector several hotels in the districts affected have surrendered their licenses, and this fact has been taken into account in deciding how many others shall be deprived at this sittings, for the board’s closing operations are limited to the amount, of funds at its disposal for compensation purposes, and are exercised proportionately in the various districts visited.

Following its usual practice, the board has carefully inspected all the hotels in the list, and those in competition with them, and after so doing, and after considering the evidence given, the board now finds that the licensed victuallers’ premises in the several licensing districts set out hereunder are not necessary for the convenience of the public or the requirements of the several localities in the district, and accordingly determines that each of the said premises shall be deprived of its license, that is to say, shall not have its license renewed, viz.:—

BALLARAT WEST DISTRICT. City, Lydiard street south. Class D. Redan Club, Skipton street, Class B. Corn Exchange, corner Webster street and Creswick road, Class D. Emu, Armstrong street south, Class D. Foundry, Yuille street. Class D. Reform Club, corner Lyons and Urquhart streets. Class D. BUNGAREE DISTRICT. Little Bendigo hotel. Little Bendigo, Class D. M'Grath’s hotel. North Bungaree road, Class D. BUNINYONG DISTRICT. Caledonian, Buninyong, Class B. Forest Home, Yendon, Class D. Main Trunk, Cambrian Hill, Class D. DOWLING FOREST DISTRICT. Balmoral, Learmonth road, Class D. Dowling Forest, Miners’ Rest, Class D. SEBASTOPOL DISTRICT. Camp hotel, Smythesdale, Class B. Commercial, Sebastopol, Class D. WARRENHEIP DISTRICT. Lake View, Warrenheip, Class D. Class A embraced hotels against which there were two convictions under the provisions of section 44 of the Licensing Act of 1906. There are two such hotels, dealt with by the board, but neither was delicensed. Class B embraced hotels with one such conviction, and Class D comprised hotels not required for public convenience. Compensation awards in reference to the hotels closed by the board will be made later on.[3]

List of hotels to be closed[edit | edit source]

Ballarat West[edit | edit source]

Bungaree[edit | edit source]

Dowling Forest[edit | edit source]

Sebastopol[edit | edit source]

Warrenheip[edit | edit source]

There were 10 cases of surrendered licenses dealt with for compensation. Two of the hotels had been recently burnt down, and in only two cases had reasonably complete returns been submitted. The awards were:

Ballarat West[edit | edit source]

Bungaree[edit | edit source]

Buninyong[edit | edit source]

  • Morning Star, Elaine. Owner, £150; licensee, £5.
  • Princess Royal, Buninyong. Owner, £138; Licensee, £36. This hotel had been burnt.

Clunes[edit | edit source]

Creswick[edit | edit source]

  • Australasian, Creswick. Owner, £150; licensee £102. This hotel also has been burnt down.

The total to be paid to owners is £2,393, an average of £239 per hotel; while licensees will share £312, or at the rate of £31 each.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1908 'Weeding Out the Hotels.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 19 May, p. 4. , viewed 10 Feb 2020,
  2. 2.0 2.1 1908 'BALLARAT HOTELS.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), 19 May, p. 3. , viewed 06 Feb 2018,
  3. 1908 'LICENSED HOUSES CLOSED.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 19 May, p. 4. , viewed 10 Feb 2020,