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.
In Western Australia, liquor tends to be more stringently regulated than either Victoria or New South Wales. Jessica Patterson, a partner in the liquor licensing, hospitality and events team for Lavan, a Western Australian law firm, says the concept of a roving beer truck isn’t prohibited under state law. But it would be very hard to do in practice.
“For one, it doesn’t fit squarely into any of our categories of licence,” says Patterson. “You’ve got to try to mould it into one of the existing categories while satisfying a public interest test and meeting with the objects provisioned in the liquor legislation. Which I think would be very difficult because there are inherent risks in this sort of concept.”
Patterson says a number of clients have come to her with similar ideas. “I’ve told each one the same thing: there are a lot of hurdles to get over,” she says. “How would you satisfy a licensing authority of the risk management requirements and the harm minimisation requirements you have to have in place? How you would satisfy the authority you could adapt that for some unknown location, where you have unknown factors? It would be very, very difficult to do.”
Patterson says Western Australia also suffers from other issues, such onerous red tape and a very active health lobby. “It doesn’t help that our licensing authorities are very understaffed,” she adds. “They do a very good job battling with a heavy workload.”
Borazio agrees, saying the sheer number of existing licences in each state along with new applications makes it hard for officials to address more unusual ideas. Still, he thinks a roving beer truck may one day be possible.
“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.