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Sydney Venue Called Out Over Sneaky Late-Night Surcharge

17 May 2023 | 12:04 pm | Jessica Lynch

"Call it what you will, but charging customers a 'Late Night Surcharge' is just a Scam, Racket, Ripoff, Sham, Con, Shakedown."

Sydney venue The Oxford Hotel has come under fire after several patrons noticed they had been slammed with a sneaky late-night surcharge while partying at the popular establishment.

In a post to the Sydney subreddit, one user described buying beer jugs with friends at the Darlinghurst venue, with the first round costing $24.36.

"When it was my round next at 10:37 pm the price charged was $33.50," they added.

"When I asked the same staff member who served me he said there was a 'late-night surcharge after 10 pm'. I’ve never heard of a late-night surcharge before and it’s a 30% increase! Not exactly a small increase."

They noted that there was "no signage to notify anyone of the fee after 10 pm." 

"I’ve never even heard of this practice in Australia. Has anyone experienced this before? Is it even legal?" they asked.

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According to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), if a surcharge is included, they must include the following words on the menu: “A surcharge of [percentage] applies on [day or days].”

These words must be at least as prominent as the most prominent price on the menu.

“Alternatively, if the menu does not list prices, the information about the surcharge must be displayed in some other prominent way,” the advice reads.

Meanwhile, other Sydneysiders chimed in with similar experiences in local venues while saying the sly charges took advantage of intoxicated patrons who may not notice the difference in cost.

"And $11.17 for a schooner after 10. Just checked my bank statement," added another Redditor who had recently been to The Oxford. "A lot of the good LGBQTI pubs have either closed due to the lockout laws, or are pricing themselves so high no one wants to drink there. They'll go bust if they keep this up."

Another added, "I remember being charged this surcharge in the Park House in Mona Vale about 4-5 years ago. It's not uncommon and it's not new."

A third said, "O'Donoghues does the same sh*t. I once had someone complain to me about the price, I just shrugged and jokingly said that it's to help prevent people from getting stupidly drunk." 

One bartender explained that venues will often add a late-night surcharge to cover staff penalty wages, though it's often not put into practice.

"From experience as a bartender, so, so many bars will bump their booze prices up at 10 pm and midnight to 'help pay for staff loading', but won't actually pay their staff penalty rates. just a little bit of extra money for the bigwigs."

Another called the move "particularly cheeky, because people are going to be less likely to notice it once they’re a few drinks in and 10 pm hits."

Since the post gained traction, The Oxford Hotel has been bombarded with one-star Google reviews calling out the late-night surcharge.

"From Universal Hotels website the owners of the Oxford: 'Respect - We respect each other, our customers, our communities and our venues.' So their respect for their customers and community extends to scamming them by ~30% when they've had a few after 10.30 pm," one review began.

"I am sure the customers and community are expressing their receipt of the 'respect' in the recent reviews. This is an unjust and likely illegal trade practice."

Another added, "Call it what you will, but charging customers a 'Late Night Surcharge' is just a Scam, Racket, Ripoff, Sham, Con, Shakedown."

The Oxford Hotel has yet to comment on the surcharge,