These include tensions around relationships between alcohol and driving, problem public drinking versus aspirations for civility, and fears around links between liquor outlets and violence.
For example, concerns about the proliferation of large format bottle shops and their links to domestic violence were central to Victoria’s Hunt Club case in 2013. Local council and community representatives wanted to restrict the proposal for a large-scale liquor store in Cranbourne expressing concern about the concentration of large corporate bottle shops in outer suburban areas, and their potential links to domestic violence.
Planners seek to regulate the harms associated with takeaway alcohol sales but ironically, the big, suburban, car-oriented and corporate bottle shops of today are themselves the products of planning requirements over the 20th century that emphasised separation from residential areas and the provision of car parking.
While temperance anxiety has often focused on closing or limiting hotels, takeaway alcohol now accounts for the majority (80%) of alcohol sold in Australia and private liquor consumption is more normalised.
Outlets no longer stock only the iconic chunky “flagon” and a small range of big brand beers of decades past.
Yet the ever-renewed focus of regulation and anxiety still exists.
Old wine in new bottles
In the conditions placed on bottle shops there has always been a tension between social anxiety over the derelict “wino” (holder of paper bags, dweller on park benches) and our aspirations to civilised European drinking practices.
Bottle shops are sites closely shaped by regulations, in turn reflecting and reinforcing changing norms and fears about alcohol consumption.
In times of fear, they acquire extra layers of narrative-based controls – Sydney’s ‘lock out’ rules, for example, which limit packaged sales after 9pm due to concerns about violence – even if the effects are sometimes contrary to intentions.
As with swill pubs and the effects of early closing, bottle shops in Australia demonstrate the often-unanticipated effects of regulations.
Governments typically walk a fine line between the contradictions of profiting from, and attempting to control, alcohol. Liquor regulations too, are a blurry line between control and creating insider trade interests.