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Bureaucrats tell Sydney bar the Spooning Goats that its name is ‘inappropriate’

Display cases add to the bar’s eclectic and friendly vibe. Photo: Christopher Pearce The case of “Spooning Goats” highlights the arbitrary powers of the NSW liquor authority: barman Jason Newton. Photo: Christopher Pearce

The city’s liquor licensing bureaucrats have deemed the pub name “inappropriate” or “objectionable”. Photo: Christopher Pearce

The Ducks Nuts. The Stuffed Beaver. The Darlinghurst “Lick-Her” store. Dirty Dick’s. The Spooning Goats. The Bearded Tit.

Single entendres abound in the state’s bar and pub scene. But see if you can guess which of the names above state government authorities deemed beyond the pale.

A Sydney barman has for years been battling the city’s liquor licensing bureaucrats who have deemed the name of his establishment “inappropriate” or “objectionable”.

The case of “Spooning Goats” highlights, he says, the arbitrary powers of the NSW liquor authority.

Jason Newton first tried to register his York Street small bar under the offending name three years ago.

But the state government’s liquor regulators stopped him from using it. Under section 95 of the Liquor Act authorities do not need to justify any decision to prohibit the use of a name.

Plainclothes agents from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority have twice visited the bar to make sure he wasn’t secretly using the offensive words.

(“Spooning” for the uninitiated refers to a hug where two bodies interlock like utensils in a drawer.)

But Mr Newtown says the name is actually a nonsensical mash-up of a family joke about his late grandmother’s collection of decorative spoons and the zany badges he gave to customers as a marketing gimmick.

Mr Newton, says he is trying to create an eclectic and unpretentious aesthetic, with an extensive collection of Star Wars memorabilia, ’70s décor, his grandmother’s spoons and the novelty badgemaker.

“We were shooting around business names,” he said. “I had on an [I heart goats badge] and it just stuck from there.”

But the rationale did not pass muster with the state government bureaucrats, who deemed the name was “inappropriate”.

One of the novelty badges was seized by an agent from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, who, Mr Newton said, after making ostensibly casual conversation flashed his own badge and began inspecting the bar.

“‘You’re going to have to take that sign down’,” Mr Newton recalls the agent saying, of an ‘I love goats’ poster.

Mr Newton says he instead uses the name “The SG”.

But he’s not giving up his fight.

Next month he will make a third application to use “Spooning Goats”, he says, with a 1600-signature petition from patrons who say the name is not offensive.

“It’s impacting on our business,” he said.  “We did all our social media and marketing before [the application was denied] so everyone asks: ‘Is this spooning goats’?”

Besides, Mr Newton argues that there are plenty of ruder names authorities have let through.

There’s the Stuffed Beaver Canadian restaurant in Bondi.

Darlinghurst has its famous bottle shop with a “Lick-Her” sign out front while the Slip Inn was not too suggestive for Royalty (commoner Mary Donaldson met husband Prince Frederik of Denmark there).

There’s also pubs whose names could be interpreted as rude by a bureaucrat determined to take offence, such as The Bull and Bush in Baulkham Hills and Dirty Dick’s Theatre Restaurant at Rydalmere.

Redfern’s Bearded Tit is named for a bird but does have crocheted penises in its windows. But the owners there appear to have skirted the attention of authorities by registering as “The Bearded Titan”.

“I imagine if you get them on a bad day they might say no,” Mr Newton said.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority declined to say why the name was deemed objectionable.

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