Venues claim VLAD laws thrust them into bikie conflict
AS Queensland's controversial "bikie" laws are set to be reviewed by a commission of inquiry later this year, our four-part special report looks into the impacts of the legislation since its introduction in 2013.
This is Part 2: The Economic Cost
HOTELS, pubs and clubs claim the former Newman Government's bikie laws have thrust them into the middle of the conflict between outlaw motorcycle gangs and the law.
When the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) laws were introduced in October 2013, changes were also made to liquor licensing laws to stop members of bikie gangs from being in a venue while wearing gang patches or club colours.
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Pubs and clubs were also the venues for home high-profile arrests of people who allegedly broke the laws' anti-association provisions - prohibiting three or more members of criminal gangs from being together at one time - including the "Yandina Five", at the Yandina Hotel on the Sunshine Coast, and three people at Brisbane's Dayboro Tavern.
Librarian Sally Kuether, biker partner Phillip Palmer and his friend Ronald Germain had their charges dropped in April this year, while the five men arrested in Yandina in 2013 await the outcome of the Labor government's review later this year.
The laws require hotels, pubs and clubs to enforce the wearing of patches and colours - and businesses say it costs up to $450 to train each of their staff members to do so.
They also say the laws have created an element of danger in the workplace, with employees nervous about refusing service to bikies or having them removed from the premises.
Queensland Hotels Association business development and training manager Damian Steele said any criminal activity on licensed premises or elsewhere was a concern and that hotels were aware of their legal responsibilities.
"It's an offence to allow bikies on the premises - we have colour diagrams that list declared motorcycle gangs to help employees," Mr Steele said.
"We have implemented formal and informal training and encourage employees to act reasonably.
"Within context, depending on the size of the venue and degree of security, we usually have one or two staff members who we encourage to have a commonsense approach."
Mr Steele said while the QHA supported police and keeping the community safe, the laws sometimes put staff in a difficult position.
"We don't want hoteliers around the state to become the meat in the sandwich," he said.
Hotels and clubs have had to make changes to the way they train their staff and have implemented new formal training programs, coming at a cost of $450 per person to the hotels and clubs themselves.
As part of liquor licensing courses, employees now have to learn about how to deal with bikies and how to behave when denying bikies service or having them removed from premises.
Pub and club owners and managers have raised concerns for their staff, especially those in regional and rural areas with bikies living in the same community.
Consequently, many refuse to speak publicly about the issue or the impact of the VLAD laws for fear of suffering backlash, while those owned by Coles and Woolworths have been told they cannot make comment at all.
Bikie Laws - The Fallout is a collaboration between Australian Regional Media and students of Bond University.