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.
Victoria, along with New South Wales, is typically considered a step ahead of other states in the flexibility of its liquor licensing laws. Still, Emily Marson of BestHooper Lawyers, one of Melbourne’s oldest and most experienced firms practising town planning and law, reckons it’s difficult finding a place in the legislation for a beer truck that simply arrives on your street and starts dishing out frothies.
“This is probably an area where the current regime wouldn’t facilitate it being easy for someone to acquire a liquor licence for a beer truck,” Marson says. “In Victoria, the planning schemes require you to get planning permission from the local council for the use of land for the supply of liquor. I think food trucks is an area where the law doesn’t reflect that scenario being able to occur easily.”
BestHooper has expertise in helping venue owners get permission under council planning schemes for the supply of liquor. That’s where Marson envisions a lot of operators would come unstuck. When you consider there are 31 municipalities in the greater Melbourne area, planning permission for a beer truck has the potential to become a major headache.
“A roving beer truck is something that doesn’t clearly fit into any of the categories that are currently available,” says Mason. “The closest I would think would be a renewable limited licence, but you need to narrow the scope of where and how you’re supplying liquor. So that’s where it can get difficult.”
By way of example, Marson mentions a Red Tape Commissioner report in January of this year where the Chief Commissioner of the Victorian Police objected to a limited renewable licence for a food truck on the basis the truck might be moved – which it would, obviously – and that events and dates weren’t known at the time of the application.
Still, despite all this, Borazio reckons it’s possible to make a beer truck a going concern in Victoria — if you’re 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.