Panthers off violence list

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For the first time in four years, Penrith Panthers has been taken off the NSW Government’s violent venues list.

The NSW Government introduced the violent venues list in 2008, which places stringent restrictions on clubs where there are a significant number of violent incidents.

At Penrith Panthers, there were 65 assault incidents between July 2007 and June 2008, but since Chief Operating Officer, Sue McNeill took over responsibility for the club 18 months ago, that number has been reduced to just 10 incidents in the past year.

“This is what we have been working for and we are very excited… the challenge now will be staying off the list,” she said.

Working closely with local police, the club changed its tactics in dealing with intoxicated people.

“The first thing was to realise that we had to accept the rules – for a club with 1.4million visitors it is difficult to be compared to small nightclubs that may be open only for two nights, but we had to work with the rules,” Ms McNeill said.

The club then looked at reducing high-visibility security and instead adopted a method of “talking-out” intoxicated patrons.

“There are things we will never be able to control, but by talking more to patrons, having all of our staff mingle and talk to people, we have realised that even if it means talking to a group for 30 minutes before convincing them to leave, we get better results and patrons are happier,” she said.

“The local police have been sensational, they have been helping guide us in ways to talk to patrons and support us.”

Most of the restrictions previously applied to Penrith Panthers when the club was on the violent venues list, will actually stay in place though patrons might notice a couple of small changes.

“We have kept most of the restrictions applied to us because the risk of going back on the list is just too high,” Ms McNeill said.

“We have been running focus groups with patrons though and one of the big restrictions that has been lifted is the serving of alcohol on glasses after 9pm. People have told us they hate drinking out of plastic so for the first time on Saturday night we were able to keep serving glasses.

“The only other restriction we are lifting is the 10 minute breaks. Every hour on the hour we had to stop serving alcohol for 10 minutes, which was actually causing more harm than good. People did not understand the restriction imposed on the club so it was a source of frustration, and it actually encouraged people to drink more as they would queue up prior to the hour and buy extra drinks.”

Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, George Souris, congratulated clubs for reducing their assault figures. “It is pleasing that 16 venues have successfully removed themselves from the list by achieving the most impressive reductions in alcohol-related violence.”

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