A Newcastle restaurant has been convicted for operating as an unauthorised bar, after inspectors found it had only one item on its menu after 9pm.

Inspectors visited 5 Sawyers restaurant after 9:30pm last September as part of a Liquor & Gaming NSW compliance operation.

The duty manager said there was a “limited menu” available after 9pm, however the sole menu item was a German-style pretzel with a cheese dipping sauce and cracked pepper.

The inspectors also found no table service was being offered and patrons were buying drinks from the bar.

Benjamin Dewson, licensee of the restaurant on Darby St, pleaded guilty to the offence in Newcastle Local Court on 20 August.

Magistrate David Price fined Dewson $1200 and ordered him to pay legal costs of $3500.

“This is not a matter to be trivialised,” says Magistrate Price. “There needs to be a general deterrence in the hospitality industry. There should be a clear and consistent message that there must be full compliance with liquor licence requirements.”

This is the second prosecution of a Newcastle venue for the same offence. In February, the former operators of Soho on Darby were fined for operating their restaurant like a nightclub.

Liquor & Gaming NSW director of compliance operations Sean Goodchild says the regulator is monitoring higher risk venues and will intervene where an operator misuses its licence.

“We have investigated a number of recent cases where a venue with a restaurant licence operates as a nightclub or bar,” he says.

“These business models misrepresent their activities and disregard strict obligations under NSW liquor laws, increasing risks of alcohol-related harm.”

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