A Rockhampton businessman has detailed the challenges facing the nightclub industry.
A Rockhampton businessman has detailed the challenges facing the nightclub industry. Warren Lynam

Rocky nightlife insight: The changes hurting an industry

HAVE online dating, social media, government red tape, a declining economy and high business costs changed Queensland's nightclub scene forever?

Respected Rockhampton businessman Wayne Riddell yesterday described an industry that has lost much of its fizz in recent times.

It was only a few years ago that nightclubs were thriving as cashed-up miners partied in big numbers in the Beef Capital. These days, much has changed and people just aren't enjoying themselves in the same ways they used to.

Mr Riddell, who owns a number of Rockhampton's clubs and bars, said a number of factors had played into his decision to make changes at one of the venues he owns, Flamingo's on Quay.

Government regulation is hurting the nightclub industry.
Government regulation is hurting the nightclub industry. DERRICK DEN HOLLANDER

Moving forward under new management, the plan is for the venue to become a specialised function centre in addition to hosting live acts and entertainment events, bringing some big names and unique events to Rockhampton in the hope of injecting some much-needed life into the night-time economy.

Mr Riddell said it was hard to cover costs in the current climate, particularly with government decisions hurting small businesses.

Surging electricity costs, the mining downturn, increasing rules and regulations are all taking their toll, as is the lifestyle of a younger generation these days.

"There are a few things, things like online dating and social media, which keep people indoors and it's basically free,” Mr Riddell said.

"Drugs have played a big part in the night-time economy, it's cheaper to pop a pill these days with the forever increasing alcohol taxes and prices.

"It seems like alcohol gets the blame for everything because the government can control it.

"They can't control the drugs. You can also have a club full of people and they're all drinking water. The computers tell us what is happening. But you still have all the costs (to run the business) to meet."

He said the government hadn't helped with legislative changes in areas such as trading hours and laws surrounding identification scanners.

"It has become a real nanny state,” Mr Riddell said.

"They get it wrong sometimes. They didn't read the market here and it's killing business.

"They're about three years behind with the changes they made. People have lost their jobs in the mines and they're not going out and spending as they used to."

He said his business had to buy alcohol at the same price as people on the street.

"Bottleshops have hurt us a lot too. They can sell a two litre bottle of 7.5% cider for $20 or a 10 packet of 8% beer for $25, and hotels can't stock beers and ciders over 5% and bottleshops can advertise their specials and we can't, it's just not fair,” Mr Riddell said.

Industry costs such as APRA (music licence) fees remain and electricity prices had soared "through the roof”.

"Prices are 50%-60% up on what they were five years ago,” Mr Riddell said.

"This is small business and everyone, whether it's here, Mackay or Brisbane, is having this problem.

"You have wages and penalty rates on public holidays...but if there's no-one in the bar, you can't keep going like that.”

He said a few years ago Australia was a much cheaper place to run a business.

Late yesterday afternoon, The Morning Bulletin sought a response from Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke, who said he will respond today.



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