Bungle almost cost pub $40k

A BLUNDER by a Liquor Licensing officer had the owners of one licensed premises in Warwick hot under the collar after they were falsely handed a $40,000 fine during the recent Operation Unite blitz.

The hefty fine was dished out Friday night after the enforcement officer witnessed two minors - both aged 17 - having dinner and pink lemonade at the hotel with a 21 year-old friend.

It is thought the trio were having dinner before seeing a movie.

In an ironic twist, the trio work in another licensed venue in town.

The minors and duty manager were given on the spot fines of $300 and $1000 respectively, while the pub was ordered to pay $40,000.

The penalties were quickly taken back Monday after the premises engaged legal help and advice from the Queensland Hotels Association at the weekend.

Minors - people under 18 - are not permitted in a licensed premises as stated in the Liquor Act 1992, yet there are exemptions to this law.

One of the exemptions, Section 155 4f, states that a minor is permitted in a licensed premises if "the minor is eating a meal on the premises".

The owner of the licensed premises, who wished to remain anonymous, said the liquor licence enforcement officer had since admitted their mistake.

"We were confident (we hadn't broken the law)," the owner said.

"We've had all our training under the Responsible Service of Alcohol.

"We asked all parties to be calm and told them we'd take it up when everyone's thinking straight."

The owner said their suspicions of the mistake were confirmed when they sought advice from outside parties the following day.

The liquor licence enforcement officer then withdrew his allegations and had spoken to the families of the minors to apologise by Monday.

Queensland Hotels Association (QHA) CEO Justin O'Connor said while the incident was "clearly a mistake", instances such as these had become a trend during Operation Unite blitzes.

"It's probably as a result of the keenness of officers to issue tickets rather than looking for genuine issues," he said.

"On the four weekends of Operation Unite, they're looking to gather statistics like 'we arrested x people, we fined y people and we broke up x number of fights'.

"I would have thought the enthusiasm with which these officers engaged the three young men is reflected in this type of attitude.

"It is a concern for us someone is undertaking law enforcement and doesn't know the details of the Act."

Mr O'Connor said the bungle had resulted in "a poor hospitality experience" for all involved.

He urged all members of QHA to contact the association in future where it was thought a misunderstanding or mistake had taken place, or where a hotelier felt aggrieved by the actions of a police officer or liquor enforcement officer.

A Liquor and Gaming Regulation spokeswoman confirmed the infringement notices were issued on Friday night to the minors "for being in a licensed hotel".

"The two young people were not eating a meal at the time, so were not considered to be exempt minors," she said.

"After further information was received, there was some doubt as to whether the minors were in the hotel for purposes other than to eat a meal.

"Given the circumstances, the issuing officer recommended the tickets be withdrawn. The officer reminded the minors of their responsibilities under the Liquor Act."

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