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Spacer Spacer Submission to the Liquor Review 1996

Issues relating to Different Types of Licence

  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit acknowledges that targeting premises usually associated with heavy drinking or identified in Last Drink Surveys can help reduce some forms of alcohol related harm. However, it also supports routine inspection of all licensed premises, including clubs, to ensure licensees and staff are aware of their responsibilities with regard to underage and intoxicated persons, and to promote and encourage other host responsibility practices.

Routine inspection is a matter of adequate resourcing and of enforcement practices under the Act. A contribution may be made to resourcing by changing to an annual licensing fee (see section 14).

  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports clarification and improved enforcement of the Act's provisions related to the legal minimum drinking age and Sunday trading. As one strategy towards this, the Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports returning to a clear distinction in licence category between premises licensed for the sale of liquor and those licensed to sell alcohol only with meals.
  • Under the present single 'on-licence category, a de facto distinction has continued in the granting of Sunday hours of trading and 'restricted' and 'supervised' designations related to the various exemptions to the minimum drinking age. However, this has created a situation of confusion with accusations of unfair competition, where some on-licences are permitted to serve 18 -20 year olds and serve alcohol on Sundays, while other on-licences are not. The criterion for different terms of the licence is whether food or alcohol is the principal purpose of business, but this demarcation is increasing being blurred by cafes which allow casual drinking and taverns which, for example, have sold $2 meal tickets as an excuse to sell liquor to 18-20 year olds.
  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit favours a return to a distinction in licence category between 'restaurants' and 'on-licences', each with its own obligations and privileges. Premises whose principal business is the sale of alcohol would have entry restricted to those over 20 and would not trade on Sundays. This would include nightclubs and bars providing late night entertainment and music venues selling alcohol to young people rather than other refreshments. Restaurant licences would be open to all ages, and could serve alcohol only with meals to anyone over 20. Holders of on-licences could also hold a 'restaurant' licence for separate dining facilities, just as some hold an off-licence as well as their on-licence. On licences are also required to sell food on the days which they normally trade, though this may be less formally provided.

Licences are also granted for other types of business, such as conveyances or theatres, which sell small amounts of alcohol. These could be granted with no restriction on young people or children being present, but with other conditions as appropriate negotiated or imposed to ensure that these licences were conducted in accordance with the object of the Act. (See section 9(b) re greater flexibility to attach conditions to a licence).


  • The reintroduction of separate licence categories would mean that on-licences and restaurants would each have their own obligations and privileges, clarifying the grounds of competition between the two. It would create two easily distinguishable situations for licensees and enforcement officers. In on-licensed premises, all patrons will be 20 or over with no exemptions. In a restaurant persons of all ages may be present, and those over 20 may drink with meals. The requirement for age identification and clear signage for patrons would support enforcement.
  • In supporting the delegation of authority to District Licensing Agencies to grant unopposed licences, as well as renewals as at present, the Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit also supports auditing as well as an appeal role for the higher Authority.
  • Research on the administration of the Act at local levels revealed concern by a number of statutory officers that, in smaller districts in particular, special licences were being granted inappropriately or in ways which were not consistent with the intention of the Act (Hill & Stewart 1996). Examples included granting a rugby club a series of special licences for Saturday night, which allowed it to operate as a Saturday night tavern selling to the general public. Another was a special licence granted to a club for a series of occasions as a way around planning and hygiene requirements. It was suggested that the Authority should act as both auditor and appeal body for decisions made at the local level, and that the Authority's secretariat should provide guidelines and training with regard to licensing and inspection, including for special licences and temporary authorities.
  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports more use being made of Section 96 to provide guidelines to interpretation and case law, etc. to Agencies and their inspectors. Of the three only Statements which the Liquor Licensing Authority has sent to District Licensing Agencies under Section 96 of the Act, the first related to inappropriate granting of special licences while premises awaited approval from the Authority, and the third related to temporary authorities granted without a character check by police. (The second related to public hearings.)
  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports the continuance of club licences for the sale of liquor to members and guests only, and only for consumption on the premises. Clubs should not be permitted to sell alcohol to the public, except on those occasions when they obtain a special licence for a particular event.

Regulation and enforcement for club licences respects the 'private' nature of clubs of members - the basis, for example, of their right to sell alcohol on Sundays, and for the licence to be held by the trustees or committee of an incorporated society (with various tax benefit, funding possibilities etc) rather than a responsible licensee or certified manager. Premises which profit from selling liquor to the general public should not be entitled to such privileges. There is some evidence to suggest that clubs are not always meeting their side of the bargain and that there should be greater enforcement directed towards clubs, especially sports clubs, with regard to underage drinking and host responsibility practices (Hill & Stewart 1996; Wyllie, Holibar & Tunks 1995; Wyllie, Millard & Zhang 1996). There is a need for a responsible person designated as manager to be present at all times, and this responsibility might be shared between several committee members with some training in host responsibility and legal obligations under the Act.

  • There is nothing to prevent a club which wishes to go into the business of selling alcohol, rather than organising sport or for some other charitable purpose, from registering as a company, rather than an incorporated society, and having its director apply for a liquor licence. Both licensee and company would then be required to meet a different set of legal, licensing and tax responsibilities. The same holds for a local authority. (See also Discussion Paper, 11(8) Technical Issues)
  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit does not favour a 'small club' category of licence with lower fees, and lower requirements for responsible management and compliance with aspects of the law.
  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit emphasises that the key issue in licensing premises for the sale of liquor to the public is responsible management by a suitable person to ensure compliance with the Act and good host responsibility practices.
  • The police currently check the background of the licence applicant, including company directors where appropriate. As long as the police and licensing inspectors are able to verify the suitability of those involved in a licensed premises, the actual form of ownership is a matter for other regulatory legislation.
  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit does not support the continuing exemption from liquor licensing and from the requirement of the Act for canteens for police, fire service, prison officers, army and on-shore navy or for the House of Representatives (clause 5).

For reasons of both public health and fair competition, all drinking environments should be subject to the same controls and host responsibility requirements, as appropriate to the category of premises.

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