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Spacer Spacer Submission to the Liquor Review 1996

Host Responsibility

Promoting healthier drinking

  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports a strengthening of the aspects of the Act (eg. 13(1)(d) and 14(4)(d)) which encourage responsible management by licensees and the consumption of food with alcohol (Wyllie, Holibar & Tunks 1995; Hill & Stewart 1996). These are seen as the key to improving drinking environments and drinking practices by patrons (Saltz 1987; Single 1994). The concept of 'host responsibility' should be specifically named in the Act in relation to criteria and conditions for all types of licence.
  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports the re-introduction of Clause 246 from the 1962 Act or a similar prohibition of promotions or pricing which encourage excessive or faster drinking.


  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports the inclusion of maximum capacity as a condition of the licence. In New Zealand, crowding in some student pubs and nightclubs has been reported as reducing the awareness of licensees, managers and staff of underage drinkers, levels of intoxication and incidents of aggressiveness, broken glass, etc., as well as impeding inspection and enforcement by police officers. However, the capacity of premises does not seem to have been considered in licensing decisions since the cessation of statutory reporting by fire officers. Having the maximum number of patrons permitted in the premises notated on the licence will enable enforcement agencies to use a breach of this condition as a reasons to close the premises, in cases where people's safety is at risk through overcrowding.
  • Crowding has been identified as a contributing factor to violence on licensed premises (Homel, Tomsen & Thommeny 1992; Macintyre & Homel 1996). Western Australia legislation allows conditions to be imposed on a licence 'to ensure public order, especially in regard to large number of people', while in Manitoba the capacity of premises is set through regulations.

Public health input into licensing

  • The requirement of Medical Officers of Health to report on licence applications and renewals has contributed a public health perspective on licensing which complements the more regulatory and enforcement oriented perspectives of the other statutory agencies. Locally based Health Protection or Health Promotion Officers inquiring on behalf of Medical Officers of Health have developed a very useful role in promoting responsible host practices on licensed premises. The active presence of a health promotion officer working with licensed premises tends to increase the attention given to food and other host responsibility practices by officers of other statutory agencies (Hill & Stewart 1996).
  • However, this work is not well supported by the Act. Nor are the role and routine work of the Medical Officer of Health backed by the same power to apply for closure, suspension or cancellation that the police and inspectors have in their area of competence. Reasons Medical Officers of Health may have for applying for a suspension or closure would involve situations of risk of alcohol related harm to the public or individuals, such as events or promotions encouraging gross intoxication or risking injury, or continuing non-compliance with host responsibility requirements. (Under the Food Hygiene Act, however, the Medical Officer of Health may suspend or cancel a premises' licence to sell food.) This role of the Medical Officer of Health is discussed further under 9(c)(i) below.

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