THE spread of shops selling alcohol next to other goods must be reined in and bottle-shop sales should be monitored to track links to domestic violence and other harm, the NSW liquor watchdog says.
It puts the booming retail liquor market at the centre of debate over alcohol consumption and outlet density, shifting the focus from pubs and clubs.
It also pits the regulator against powerful supermarket giants such as Woolworths, which opened more new liquor stores than supermarkets last year.
The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority told a five-year state government review of liquor laws the availability of “packaged” alcohol, such as that sold at bottle shops, could undermine efforts to reduce alcohol-related harm.
While the negative impact of packaged liquor outlets was generally considered far less than that of hotels, increasingly the link between takeaway alcohol sales and domestic violence is being recognised, it said.
Bottle shops can also contribute to other alcohol-related crime, secondary supply of alcohol to minors and pre-fuelling — the practice of drinking at home before a night out.
National competition laws that removed a “needs test” and more liberal licensing laws in the past decade have triggered an increase in NSW bottle shops, which number more than 2300.
Woolworths is the state’s largest retail liquor operator, trading under names including BWS and Dan Murphy’s.
The authority said NSW should follow the lead of Western Australia and the Northern Territory by collecting alcohol sales data.
This would help confirm or disprove the correlation between takeaway liquor and harm.
The “accelerating” growth of mixed businesses — shops that sell alcohol alongside other goods — “risks the emergence of new harms”, the authority said.
Liquor laws should “retard the growth” of such businesses until the licence approval and compliance processes can manage the sector.