Straights only, mate

HOPE you like your liquor straight, because Whipper Snapper Distillery isn’t allowed to sell it any other way.

The burgeoning East Perth distillery makes a whiskey-style drink and one of its flagship products is meant to be a mixin’ liquor, not a sippin’ liquor, intended to be enjoyed with ginger beer, tonic, watermelon juice or cola, and a slice of fruit if you’re so inclined.

But visitors to the front-of-house bar have no option other than to drink it straight: under its “producer licence” the distillery isn’t permitted to sell mixed drinks.

The producer licence was established so wineries, breweries and distilleries could sell samples of their wares.

Distillery boss Alasdair Malloch says the rule doesn’t make much sense with today’s sophisticated crowd.

”This is an example of the outdated liquor act,” he says. “If people come in we want to show them how they would drink it at home.”

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• Alasdair Malloch isn’t allowed to sell Mark McGowan this mixed drink. Photo by David Bell

He asked WA liquor licensing to delete the “no mix” condition—the application fee was $240, necessitating a slug of hard liquor—but no luck. He says liquor staff are good to deal with but they’re hamstrung by ancient rules.

“It’s a flaw in the legislation,” he says. “Here we are, a new business, trying to do things a little big differently, but the legislation is outdated and doesn’t help us sell our product.”

Changing to another licence would bring more problems: a small bar licence wouldn’t permit the sale of bottles for people to take away. A tavern licence would require lots of new infrastructure.

Water-tight licensing restrictions are intended to minimise harm from alcohol but state Labor leader Mark McGowan says in this case they could do the opposite as they actively prevent liquor being diluted.

He says the business employs six people and is starting to export its product: “It’s just ridiculous that an innovative small business is being held back by unnecessary and illogical bureaucracy,” he says.

“Let’s bring back some common sense and support entrepreneurs. Why can’t a tourist or a local enjoy a tasting of whiskey with a mixer in a sophisticated environment?”

The opposition leader wants liquor laws changed, noting places like Whipper Snapper are unlikely to become hotspots for alcohol-fuelled violence.

He wants a new “tourism, community and cultural benefit” category added to the public interest test when considering liquor licence applications.


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