New Liquor Reforms

Following the NSW Government’s response to the Callinan review (a report to the NSW Government by the Hon. Ian Callinan AC QC), it announced a package of new liquor reforms or measures.  Click here for an overview of the Government’s response.  In summary they include:-

  • Lockout laws in Sydney CBD and Kings Cross:  The Government will trial later lockout and last drinks times for genuine live entertainment venues in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross.  The changes commence on Monday 16 January 2017. For venues that fall into this category it means lockouts will be extended from 1.30am to 2am, with last drinks extended from 3am to 3.30am. ‘ Live entertainment’ has been carefully defined to include events where one or more entertainers are engaged to perform music (live or pre-recorded) or live performances where performers are present. Licensed premises seeking later lockout times must run substantial live entertainment (including after midnight) and demonstrate a genuine focus on art, live performance and cultural events.  For further details of the new provisions click here.
  • Extension of takeaway alcohol sales:  From Friday 16 December 2016, the Government extended takeaway liquor sales from 10pm to 11pm across the state. Hotels, clubs, bottle shops and licensed producers can lawfully trade until 11pm on Monday to Saturday if their development consent permits and their licence meets certain conditions (click here for further details). Sunday 10pm closure times remain unchanged.  These changes were implemented as a result of the Callinan report as it found (at para. 9.10) that: “The sale of takeaway alcohol, whether before or after 10pm, makes little or no contribution to violence and anti-social behaviour in the Precincts, even less so when it is home delivered”.   For further details of the new provisions click here 
  • Small bar liquor licence changes:   The Government is promoting greater diversity through small bars by increasing their patron capacity from 60 to 100. The changes took effect on Friday 16 December 2016.   Small bars operate under diverse business models that focus on bar, food, live music and/or other offerings. Small bars are prohibited from providing gaming machines, selling takeaway alcohol or allowing entry to minors during authorised liquor trading hours.   Under the new reforms, small bar licences will remain exempt from the liquor licence freeze in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross precincts.  The Government will extend automatic trading times for small bars in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross entertainment precincts from midnight to 2am, bringing them into line with the rest of NSW.  These trading times will not override local council development consent conditions (this can include more restrictive trading hours).  As of Monday 16 January 2017 (and for a 12 month period only), general bar hotel licences and on-premises licences, where their development consent allows a small bar operation, can lawfully convert their liquor licence to a small bar liquor licence free of charge.  For further details of the new provisions click here.
  • Provisional licence approval for low-risk venues: The Government has recognised that the process of obtaining a liquor licence for restaurants and cafés must be made easier.  Therefore, the Government will introduce a provisional approval system for low-risk licence applications where a proposed licensee intends to sell alcohol to their customers with meals.   These new provisions will commence on 31 January 2017.   This means that, where an application for an on-premises (restaurant) licence is lodged online with the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, the applicant (or proposed licensee) can begin liquor trading while that application is being assessed by the Authority.   However, liquor trading is only permitted in circumstances where:- (a) The police and the local council have been given at least 2 days notice before trading commences; (b) the trading hours proposed are within the standard hours allowed (namely between 5am and midnight Monday to Saturday, and between 10am and 10pm on Sunday); (c) A community impact statement is not required (seeking, for example, a primary service authorisation on the licence); and (d) where the applicable planning approval  to use the premises as a licensed restaurant is in force and it arose from a public consultation process under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 that indicated the premises were intended to operate as a licensed restaurant.
  • Staff drinks:  The changes commence on Monday, 16 January 2017.  They allow licensed premises to lawfully hold drinks for their staff for a maximum of two hours after the cease of trading on any day of the week.  This will apply to staff and other people providing entertainment or other services on the premises immediately before cease of trading.
  • Further changes to NSW liquor laws:    The Government will also:- (a) extend the liquor licence freeze in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross until 1 June 2018, with some minor changes to help businesses improve their offerings to customers; (b) retain mandatory ID scanners in Kings Cross; (c) keep existing safeguards in the CBD and Kings Cross precincts including drink and glass restrictions after midnight; and (d) make changes to improve the effectiveness of the “Three Strikes” disciplinary scheme for licensed premises that repeatedly commit the most serious offences under the Liquor Act 2007, and the minors sanctions scheme for venues that sell alcohol to under-18s.   Click here for further details.