The NT Government has approved a Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin, four years after initially blocking it over concerns it would contribute to ongoing rates of alcohol-fuelled violence.
The announcement that the NT’s director of liquor licensing had approved the store was leaked to favoured media late on Thursday, following recently passed urgent legislation by the Gunner Government that stripped the independent liquor commission of any role in determining liquor licences, after it had previously knocked back the Dan Murphy’s application.
But construction of the facility is unlikely to go ahead until at least April, after parent company Woolworth’s committed to an independent panel review after copping criticism from Indigenous organisations and community members who do not want the liquor giant near their communities.
The review will focus on the “adequacy and nature” of stakeholder engagement that has transpired to date around public health concerns and best practice measures “as it impacts the lives and best interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”, a Woolworth’s press release stated.
According to the conditions attached to the director of liquor licensing’s approval, Dan Murphy’s parent company Endeavour Group has committed to selling grog at a higher price than the current $1.30 minimum floor price, will operate with reduced trading hours (closing at 9pm), and will ensure that anyone without an ID will not be served.
The government leaked the decision to media before informing Endeavour Group.
On Friday, the company released a statement welcoming the government’s decision and committed to not selling its products to people who live in nearby dry communities and those without a valid residential address.
“We welcome the licensing conditions imposed on our proposed store by the NT Director of Liquor Licensing, as we believe that they address the remaining community concerns. One of the conditions is that every customer must have ‘a legitimate address to consume the liquor’,” the company said in a statement.
“Given this requirement – as well as the specifics of our (Responsible Service of Alcohol) Management Plan – this condition will mean that we will not be selling alcohol if we believe it is to be consumed in public or taken into a dry community.
“The proposed Darwin Dan Murphy’s would have the most stringent set of alcohol control policies anywhere in the country, which includes MUP (Minimum Unit Pricing) and BDR (Banned Drinker Register) requirements. Over and above these mandatory restrictions, we are committed to several voluntarily self-imposed restrictions such as what we will range and our own minimum unit pricing, which will be higher than the government’s MUP.
The original location of the site was moved last month from airport property facing Bagot Road to its current proposed location further along Osgood Dr, closer to McMillans Rd near the Flip Out building in an effort to address concerns around the proximity to dry Indigenous communities nearby.
Gunner Government delays to Dan Murphy’s started in 2016
The government-imposed delays to a Darwin Dan Murphy’s began four years ago in December 2016, when the Gunner Government slipped through legislation banning booze shops larger than 400 sq/m, just as the liquor giant was ready to publicly announce its $40 million plans to build a store opposite the Bunnings on airport property.
That kicked off widespread community backlash and accusations of backroom deals with the Australia Hotels Association NT. The affair was heightened when it was revealed Mr Gunner’s then-chief of staff Alf Leonardi met with Dan Murphy’s reps apparently without the Chief Minister’s knowledge where he allegedly called the company “a Bunnings for drunks”.
At the time, Mr Gunner said Dan Murphy’s Darwin proposal contradicted the government’s election commitments to tackle alcohol-related crime.
“We recognise that alcohol-related harm continues to be the biggest single social challenge in the NT,” he said, pointing to non-existent studies that he claimed showed the size of a liquor store directly resulted in more alcohol harm in a community.
However, an NT-centric alcohol review conducted by former chief justice Trevor Riley found the price of grog, not the size of the shop selling it, contributed to more alcohol-related harm.
Mr Gunner later backflipped on the ban and repealed the 400 sq/m legislation, kicking off years of legal hurdles for Endeavour Group, which has now seemingly ended with the director of liquor licensing approving their application to transfer their old Stuart Park BWS licence to the new Dan Murphy’s.