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Spacer Spacer Submission to the Liquor Review 1996

Licensing Fees

Resourcing routine inspection

  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports an annual licence fee structure that provides the resources for routine supervision of host practices on all categories of premises dispensing alcohol.

The activities of District Licensing Agencies and their inspectors are required to match budgets derived from a share of fee revenues. At present, the inspection work of District Licensing Agencies, as well as that of other statutory officers, occurs largely on times of application and renewal, or in response to problems as they become known. Although the Sale of Liquor Act regulates on-going management practices on licensed premises, there is often little routine inspection, particularly of practices related to the provision of food and non-alcohol drinks and other aspects of host responsibility.

  • The number of licensed premises appears to surpass the capacity of officers to supervise all the kinds of premises that now sell alcohol. Off-licences, restaurants and cafe-bars are seldom visited by either inspectors or police other than on application and renewal.
  • This situation contrasts with hygiene inspections for most of the same premises. The Food Hygiene Act sets an annual licensing fee and requires a routine visit every six months.
  • Practices in other countries vary. In Britain an application fee is charged, but in Canada and the US fees are annual. Australia states go considerably further towards 'user pays' by assessing fees on the basis of each premises' annual turnover from liquor sales. However, much of the inspection focus in Australia state legislation is on matters of accessing purchase records and stock on premises, and preventing misrepresentation and fraud in sales figures, rather than host responsibility practices. A New South Wales police report noted that the bulk of liquor offences brought before the court related to business matters (Stockwell, 1993).
  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit does suggest measure of 'user pays', however, for repeat visits. Where unsatisfactory practices and lack of compliance with the Act indicate that further inspection is advisable, a clear indication of the areas of dissatisfaction should be given to the licensee and a set fee charged for the follow-up visit. This would reduce the cost borne by well managed premises, through their fees, for extra enforcement efforts associated with problem premises, without pre-determining which premises those might be.

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