You’re on the beach this summer. The sun’s shining, the waves are rolling in. People are playing cricket on the grass nearby. All that’s missing is beer.
And then a truck arrives. It pulls up next to the burger trucks, slides open a window, erects a sunshade and starts serving ice-cold stubbies. Easy. After a couple of rounds it rolls out, leaving you to enjoy your encroaching sunburn.
Jerome Borazio has had this dream. The entrepreneur behind generations of trend-bucking bars in Melbourne, as well as the nationally touring St Jerome’s Laneway Festival and St Jerome’s Hotel, has a penchant for making fringe ideas a reality. He’s even tried to do something about it. Except in Borazio’s first iteration, it was a boat, not a truck.
“You go down to Torquay, Lorne, Sorrento, any of these places,” says Borazio, referring to some of Melbourne’s most popular holiday spots. “Imagine having a boat cruise around all the little beaches and drop off some cold beers. What more could you want? But try to do that on a beach in Australia and you’d be crucified.”
Borazio says he actively looked into the possibility of making a beer boat happen. But it was an extension of his very first inspiration: a roving beer truck.
“Maybe 15 years ago, that’s all I ever wanted to do,” he says. “To build a really cool beer truck that would travel around to festivals and markets and wherever. There’d be DJs on the roof. It wouldn’t be so much a party vibe, more of a chilled thing. The kind of thing you sometimes see in Europe. Why not here?”
Borazio’s idea was ultimately put on ice by the intricate web of sponsorship deals most music festivals and other major events sign themselves up to. It was just too hard to find a space for an independent operator.
But the idea holds. Why isn’t there a roving summer beer truck? An operator that pulls up in a public spot and simply starts serving beer? Especially now a new food truck seems to launch every other week? The short answer is it’s made impossible by liquor licensing regulations in different states around the country. But talking to Borazio, you realise it’s a little more nuanced.
“Imagine on a hot day, rolling down to Fed Square or a public place in the city and serving a couple of cold beers,” says Borazio. “That sounds OK in [principle]. But you’ve got operators right there who are paying monster rents who need security, RSA, the whole shebang. You can understand why it would be unfair for a beer truck to pull up out the front one of those places. There’s an element of applying the same rules to everyone to keep a level playing field.”
Borazio raises other issues on which the idea would potentially become unstuck. Council support would be imperative, he says, as would careful planning around waste management and community impact.
“You can’t just have a truck or a boat rock up with the intention of selling as much booze as possible, then leaving without addressing anything else,” he says. “What’s the benefit to the municipality where you’re turning up, outside of providing a service?
“You’ve got to look at it from all angles,” he continues. “Imagine you’re in your favourite park walking your dog with your kids and suddenly a van rocks up and there’s 30 people smashing cans. How do you feel about that? Do you feel intimidated? Do you feel scared? And then, are there enough bars already in that area? Are there too many food trucks? Would it complement a food truck?”
It’s these kinds of questions that quickly stack up.
While South Australia has historically lagged behind Victoria and New South Wales in terms of its liquor legislation, Borazio thinks it now has one of the most supportive licensing regimes in the country.
“Their small bar licence should be commended,” he says. “It’s generated so much business in terms of the bars and the associated trades and suppliers.”
As for a roving beer truck: South Australia’s Commissioner for Liquor and Gambling, Dini Soulio, says if you want to try and make it a reality, you would need to apply for what’s known as a Special Circumstances Licence. The process includes a public notification and allows for stakeholders such as local government, the police and members of the community to consider and contest the application.
“If the application is contested, the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner will facilitate a conciliation,” Soulio tells Broadsheet by email. “If the concerns cannot be resolved, either the Commissioner or the specialist licensing court will make the decision about whether the licence is granted.”
Soulio says where a mobile bar licence is granted, the Commissioner has the discretion to attach certain conditions “consistent with this type of business.”
In short, it’s not easy. Still, proposed reforms to South Australia’s Liquor Licensing Act could potentially put in place a more flexible system for businesses such as mobile bars that require some form of liquor licence.
In the meantime, Borazio reckons a roving beer truck is possible if you’re dedicated to the idea.
“If you were dedicated, I’m sure you could navigate your way around it,” he says. “An innovative, forward-thinking council might look at something like that. [But you’d] have to be very well organised. “ He returns to the questions the very idea of a beer truck provokes. “If you serve someone then drive off and they leave their beer can on the ground, what happens then? Who’s managing that? You need to take all of those elements into consideration.”
We can dream.
This article produced by Broadsheet in partnership with James Squire.