Bars in NSW have been thrown a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Liquor & Gaming NSW announcing liquor licensing changes.
These changes will include allowing licensed premises that do not currently have authorisation for the sale of liquor consumed away from the premises to provide take-away or home delivery services.
During a press conference on Sunday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that from midday on Monday, registered and licensed clubs, licensed premises in hotels and pubs, entertainment venues and cinemas, casinos and nightclubs would shut, along with cinemas, gyms and indoor sporting venues.
However, bottle shops, supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics and home delivery were all given the green light to continue operating.
Liquor & Gaming NSW has since noted that it recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an exceptional set of circumstances and will have significant impacts on the businesses.
The department said: “Liquor & Gaming NSW appreciates that exceptional circumstances require flexibility on the part of the regulator.”
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said: “We’ve got to think of the health of the people, but we’ve also got to think of the health of the economy and we are transitioning to a takeaway and delivery economy as we fight coronavirus.”
Arrangements to apply while orders are in force
As not all licensed premises are authorised to sell alcohol for consumption off the premise, Liquor & Gaming NSW said it will take a “common-sense and pragmatic approach to enforcing the liquor and gaming laws”. In particular, it is recognised that the risk profile of certain venues has changed and measures put in place to manage these risks are, in the current environment, largely redundant.
“While legislative requirements remain in force, Liquor & Gaming NSW will have regard to the unprecedented pressures on industry and take a reasonable and proportionate response to compliance,” it noted.
This includes where a licensed premises, such as a restaurant, café or small bar, does not have authorisation for the sale or supply of liquor for consumption away from the premises, but wishes to provide take-away or home delivery services.
“Liquor & Gaming NSW will generally take a supportive and educative approach to compliance with these requirements during this time except in cases of significant risks to patrons or the community, and will also take into consideration genuine attempts to comply with licence conditions and other requirements,” the department said.
It is important to note that compliance and enforcement activity will continue, but with a primary focus on matters that pose significant risk to public safety and community wellbeing, and in particular the sale or supply of alcohol to intoxicated persons or minors. These offences are considered to be some of the most serious under the Liquor Act 2007 and attract significant penalties, up to and including a term of imprisonment.
Changes to the Liquor Regulation 2018 will be progressed to provide certainty to these arrangements. This compliance approach will remain in place until such time as changes can be made to the Liquor Regulation 2018 to formalise these arrangements, or for as long as the Public Health (COVID-19 Places of Social Gathering) Order 2020 remains in force, unless otherwise advised.
Executive Director of Policy and Strategy for Liquor & Gaming NSW, John Tansey, said small bars, restaurants and cafes who hold a valid liquor licence can shift their operating models immediately to take advantage of the relaxed laws.
There are no current limits on the volume of alcohol that can be supplied or the type of alcohol, however this compliance approach is intended to help small bars, restaurants and other licensed venues maintain business rather than become defacto bottle shops.
If premises are operating beyond the spirit of the compliance approach, Liquor & Gaming will consider further regulatory changes.
Small bars welcome the liquor licensing changes
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who pushed for the liquor licensing changes, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “This will be especially important for small bars, which wouldn’t otherwise have had an income but have a very loyal customer base who want to support them and their speciality offerings during these difficult times.”
For example, Dulcie’s in Kings Cross is devising a model that will offer cocktail delivery, but also takeaway shakers, rentable glassware and access to the in-house playlist so customers can have “the full Dulcie’s experience” in their living room.
“This door-to-door delivery service for us would be the difference between weathering the storm or not,” owner Brandon Martignago said.
“All of these cocktails would come with proper garnishes, proper descriptions, they would even come with coasters from the bar.”
And other bars are preparing to follow suit. The Rio in Summer Hill, for example, will offer home deliveries and takeaways from 4pm this afternoon including growlers of fresh draught beer, cocktails, bottles of wine and Mediterranean tapas.
Policies, procedures and controls around take-away sales and home deliveries
Liquor & Gaming NSW said all licenced premises making take-away sales or undertaking home deliveries should have a system of controls in place to ensure that liquor is not sold to minors or to intoxicated persons.
The Liquor & Gaming NSW website, www.liquorandgaming.nsw.gov.au, contains more information on appropriate evidence of age and prevention of intoxication, which may assist in preparing policies and procedures and clarifying legislative obligations.
Liquor licensing changes in Victoria
The Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has announced urgent measures to assist Victorian licensees during the COVID-19 shut down.
The department is working with Victorian licensees to support temporary limited licence options and will be waiving all application fees associated with the applications.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced details of a business survival package for Victorian licensees late last week, which offers $550 million to 24,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in the state with a payroll of less than $3 million as a payroll tax refund.
It is hoped the cash will help keep about 400,000 workers employed and ease the growing stress being felt by the hospitality industry.
“It is a refund back in the accounts of businesses in just a few days’ time, cash that will be critical to them being able to support their workers and in turn those workers being able to support their families,” Andrews said.
Other measures include waiving of 12,5000 venues’ liquor licence fees due this month, worth a total of $30 million.
Liquor licensing changes in SA
The South Australian government has made changes to liquor laws to allow restaurants, cafes and clubs to sell small amounts of alcohol with take-away meals ordered by customers.
SA Attorney-General Vicki Chapman said that from Thursday, holders of a liquor licence can apply for a free short-term licence enabling them to sell alcohol with take-away meals.
“These extensions should help businesses to continue to operate during this challenging time,” she said.
Liquor licensing changes in Queensland
In Queensland the Commissioner for Liquor, Gaming and Fair Trading issued a statement saying:
Community clubs and hotels can provide take away food and alcohol that cannot be consumed inside or adjacent to the venue (i.e. within a food court, the dining area of a food outlet or outside dining areas attached to the venue).
They can also operate takeaway liquor sale areas that are detached from the licensed venue, or within or attached to the licensed venue (i.e. detached and attached bottle shops and takeaway sales from the bar area).
Licensed restaurants and cafes holding a current liquor licence that will supply takeaway food, can supply takeaway alcohol or delivery, subject to the following conditions:
The takeaway alcohol can only be supplied in conjunction with a take away food order
The takeaway alcohol can only consist of bottled or canned beer, wine, cider and ready to drink beverages, such as premixed spirits
A maximum limit of 2.25 litres of alcohol applies and can only be sold in conjunction with a takeaway food order (that is up to 2.25 litres per food order).
The situation in WA
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) WA has welcomed the clarification that the WA Government has provided to licensed venues allowing taverns, bars and restaurants to deliver limited quantities of alcohol with a meal.
AHA(WA) CEO Bradley Woods said venues are trying hard to navigate the unprecedented challenges that have arisen as a result of COVID-19 and it was important that they are provided with support to continue to trade in whatever capacity they can.
“We welcome the State Government confirming our previous advice that licensed venues without a dedicated bottle shop who would ordinarily be able to sell take-away liquor can continue to do so from within the venue,” he said.
“We also welcome the lifeline that the State Government has provided to WA’s licensed venues which will allow many to remain open and save jobs.”
Summary of allowable trade:
- Hotels/taverns with bottleshops – Open to sell take-away and delivery with restricted quantities
- Hotels/taverns with no bottleshops but who are ordinarily allowed to sell take-away over the bar – Open to sell take-away and delivery with restricted quantities
- Restricted taverns/hotels, small bars, restaurants and some special facility licenses who are not ordinarily allowed to sell take-away – Open to sell take-away and delivery alcohol with a meal, with additional restricted quantities (see below).
Restricted quantities for take-away alcohol only (as announced on Wednesday):
Per customer, per day:
1. One carton of beer, cider or pre-mixed spirits; or
2. Three bottles of wine; or
3. One litre of spirits; or
4. One litre of fortified wine; or
5. A combination of any two of the above (but not a combination of two of the same product).
Additional restricted quantities for take-away alcohol with a meal
- One bottle of wine and
- One six pack beer, cider or pre-mixed spirits (the six pack can be in any combination
Pictured main: Rio gives the thumbs up to the liquor licensing changes.