St Kilda Beach drinking banned by Melbourne council after recent violence
Beachgoers in St Kilda will no longer be allowed to drink alcohol this summer, thanks to a booze ban introduced in response to a string of recent fights and assaults.
- The City of Port Phillip voted to ban alcohol on the beach last night
- The ban brings the popular Melbourne beach in line with Sydney’s Coogee and Bondi beaches
- Victoria Police will also target St Kilda Beach in Operation Sandsafe
In another last month, a group of youths attacked two men, smashing a bottle over one man’s head and punching the other.
The City of Port Phillip council last night voted to ban alcohol on the St Kilda foreshore, in Melbourne’s inner south-east, from November to March.
The ban extends current restrictions, which prevent drinking from 8:00pm until noon every day, which police said were extremely challenging to enforce.
A group of business operators — including from Luna Park, the Stokehouse restaurant and the St Kilda Sea Baths — also lobbied the council for the change.
Councillors heard emotional testimony from community leaders and business owners, an overwhelming majority of whom were in support of the ban.
“The reason we are all here today is because we love St Kilda, we love that it is inviting to all and no matter what age, nationality or social standing we all walk together side-by-side on our beaches and on our streets,” local trader Angela Dawson said at last night’s meeting.
“The last three years has seen change, and the change is safety or a lack thereof.
“Alcohol is killing the vibe of St Kilda.”
Past ban cut assaults: police
Mayor Dick Gross, who voted in favour of the ban, said it was measure he never thought he would support.
“For me and many of the visitors, St Kilda is edgy, where you can come and be free to do the sorts of things you want to do — within limits of course,” he said.
“One of those things is the iconic act of having an alcoholic beverage responsibly on the foreshore as the sun goes down and nature does its tricks.”
He said he changed his mind based on evidence that St Kilda had become too dangerous.
“I was particularly moved by a tearful restaurateur who’s been in the business for 30 years who said that he’s experienced [alcohol-fuelled] violence for all that time but this is the most out of control, and I was persuaded by that,” he said.
The council originally trialled a ban last year, after Christmas Day revellers left 29 tonnes of rubbish and broken glass on the beach, resulting in a $23,000 clean-up bill for the council.
Local police inspector Jason Kelly told the council that a 2017-18 trial led to a reduction in offences, particularly assaults, and a marked slowing down of calls for police assistance.
Events that led to the ban:
- Large crowds were involved in anti-social behaviour in November
- A group of traders petitioned the council
- Police advised they had been unable to effectively police the area
- Victoria Police made a formal request
- A trial last year led to fewer assaults and other offences
Source: City of Port Phillip
“The City of Port Phillip, as most of you would know, has high levels of alcohol-related incidents, having one of the highest rates of arrests for public drunkenness in the state — not something we should be proud of,” he said.
He said police were present on the nights of violent incidents in the past two months, and he confirmed that alcohol was a key factor in one of them.
Speaking against the ban at last night’s council meeting, resident Jen Edge said she believed Victoria Police had “more than sufficient laws” to manage the issues.
“Most residents and visitors behave considerately and enjoy the right to a cup of wine or a can of beer with a picnic or barbeque on the foreshore, which a small few privileged stakeholders seek to have withdrawn,” she said.
‘Glass of wine at sunset’
Victoria Police has also launched Operation Sandsafe, which will increase the presence of police on the beach and the number of weapons searches.
Superintendent Philip Green said the operation aimed to stop “criminal, disruptive or antisocial” behaviour.
“It might be a beachgoer past the point of one too many drinks, whose raucous behaviour makes nearby families uncomfortable. Or a violent brawl which pulls first responders and hospital workers into action and leaves families and friends devastated by the life-long consequences of a punch thrown in anger,” he said in a statement.
“These are scenes we see all too often and it’s not good enough.”
General manager of Lifesaving Victoria Paul Shannon told the council more than a third of the state’s drowning deaths were alcohol-related.
“Alcohol and poor swimming ability are a deadly cocktail,” he said.
“An increase in visitations, an increase in first aid cases, rescues and preventative actions by lifesavers are all things we’re seeing at St Kilda Beach.
A group of young people were involved in two “vicious” robberies in November. (Supplied: Victoria Police)
“At other iconic beaches in Australia, from a lifesaving perspective, there’s been no detrimental effects to providing a safer aquatic coastal environment by banning alcohol and glass from the foreshore and surrounds.”
St Kilda Tourism and Events president Travis Atkins said the ban would bring St Kilda in line with other major beaches in Australia.
Coogee Beach in Sydney was declared permanently alcohol-free in March last year, while Bondi Beach has been alcohol-free since 2003.
“I’m one of those that have always supported having a glass on the beach and watching the sunset, but unfortunately there’s got to be one law that’s enforceable across society, and society has changed,” Mr Atkins said.
“It is ticking a box where it’s saying if you are coming down here to drink and cause problems, you’re not now allowed.
“It’s a very clear message that this summer we’ve drawn a line in the sand — pun intended — and said no more.”