Carlton shisha bar seeks late-night liquor licence amid community concern

Carlton shisha bar seeks late-night liquor licence amid community concern
Brendan Rees

The owners of the Balcony Shisha Bar in Carlton have expressed their commitment to working with the community as they apply to extend their service of alcohol until 3am.

Husband-and-wife duo Farid and Farida Melhem emphasised their dedication to working as responsible business owners and ensuring their bar at 143-145 Lygon St provided a positive contribution to the Carlton area.

Their pledge comes amid residential concerns that a late-night liquor licence would lead to anti-social behaviour and drunkenness.

“We have had 25 years of operating businesses in Lygon St, and history makes you learn from experience,” the owners said.

“There’s certain people that are immature and we keep them out, and that’s done through our security and our management.”

“You will get the few people that are uncontrollable but that’s everywhere you go.”

The couple said they operated a social hub for their patrons to gather and enjoy a night, with the venue being popular with celebrities, including tennis player Nick Kyrgios.

Speaking to Inner City News, the owners said they were willing to meet with the community and address any potential issues or concerns with residents, adding they worked closely with the local police to promote a safe environment.

The bar’s application is being reviewed by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, and proposes to extend its service of alcohol from 1am to 3am. The venue can currently operate until 3am but last drinks are served before 1am.


The owners said this was needed to meet customer demand and generate extra revenue, but noted they were never exceeded their patron limit of 119 people and always played background music only.


However, the proposal has raised concerns from residents who fear increased noise and anti-social behaviour in their neighbourhood.

The Carlton Residents’ Association (CRA) has submitted an objection to Liquor Control Victoria regarding the Balcony Shisha Bar’s proposal.

“Many CRA members would be detrimentally affected, as would be the amenity of the area as a whole,” the CRA said in a statement. “We have seen many instances of violence and of drunken behaviour in the area of Lygon St, some linked to this establishment, others to El Giza and Vodka Temple in particular. The disturbances also impact the surrounding residential streets as patrons move away.”

“These comments and objections can be supported by the numerous visits by Victoria Police and records of complaints held by the City of Melbourne’s planning department.”

One concerned resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their safety, said, “The amount of fights and brawling emanating from their presence has been extraordinary to the point where patrons are chased across the road and beaten down to a pulp”.

But the Balcony Shisha Bar’s owners said their venue had a zero tolerance for anti-social behaviour and pointed to bars and clubs that held events in Lygon St for up to 500 people that caused things to get out of control.

They said people who didn’t have the patience to queue for large events “then purchase and source alcohol from nearby IGA or bottle shops and consume it at the piazza/park in the street”.

“You cannot control what happens on the whole street regardless”.

In June 2023, the state government ended a 14-year freeze on late-night liquor licences in inner Melbourne for serving alcohol after 1am, with the ban previously helping curb alcohol-fuelled violence and boosting safety. •

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