Liquor licensing – get it right early or prepare to play the long game

Whether you are setting up a new business in which you intend to serve liquor or you are purchasing an existing business with or without a licence, there are several factors that can be easily overlooked when it comes to liquor licensing.

In NSW, most businesses require a liquor licence to sell or serve alcohol. There are several different types of liquor licence available and each can have its own unique conditions applicable to a venue or business.

If you’re starting a new business it is important you apply for the correct licence to make sure you can get your business off the ground as soon as possible and that that you will be able to sell or serve alcohol in the way you have planned.

While the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority NSW suggest that an application for a liquor licence will usually be determined within 120 days (including the period of advertising on the Liquor & Gaming Application Noticeboard), many applications in fact take longer to determine due to an error in the application, including an inadequate Community Impact Statement, and/or the need to additionally obtain Development Approval from Council. An error in the application will result in further delays, potentially months. If certain objections cannot be rectified the application may be rejected outright, without a refund.

In my experience, it is at the stage of rejection or frustration due to delays that most business owners who have lodged a liquor licence application without legal assistance will seek legal advice in regards to their application for the first time. This can be a critical oversight as, in most cases, with proper due diligence at the outset, the delay and unnecessary costs could have been avoided and the business already trading and on track for forecast goals to be met.

The room for error in relation to a liquor licence application is great, including, but not limited to:

  • providing the incorrect information on the relevant application forms, including false or expired supporting documentation;
  • poor corporate governance and issues with ownership, including the current company or business details;
  • failure to properly correspond with the relevant government stakeholders within prescribed timeframes;
  • failure to provide, or poorly drafted business policies, online terms and conditions of sale and use and compliance with relevant Privacy Act 1988 (Cth);
  • issues with the Development Approval or the terms of a commercial or retail lease; and
  • failure to satisfy the criteria of the Community Impact Statement (CIS).

How We Help

I have many years’ experience in preparing and prosecuting packaged and other liquor licences for both new entrants and experienced operators in the liquor sales industry throughout NSW, including for online entrepreneurs. I first gained a serious interest in liquor licensing whilst working as a Solicitor in the Surry Hills/Darlinghurst area when the well-known “lockout-laws” came into effect in late 2014.

How we help will depend on the circumstances, including the type of liquor licence you need and the stage of your application.

At an early stage we can provide initial advice in relation to:

  • the likelihood of success of your application;
  • the development of a thorough checklist for achieving a successful application customised to your particular situation;
  • whether licence fees may be waived, refunded or reduced, based on the recent changes in legislation; and
  • what kind of additional application or authorisation (such as extended-hours) you may apply for.

Preparation of the specific application itself, correspondence with the stakeholders and the compilation of the relevant supporting documents involves a significant amount of ‘grunt’ work, which can largely be completed by you if you are trying to minimize cost.

At a later stage, we can provide ongoing guidance and a review of the final application, including the various notices to public authorities and stakeholders, Community Impact Statement and compilation of supporting documents.

If you have already received a rejection or requisition, we can advise on the best response and/or how to proceed.

For best results, the earlier we are able to assist, the greater the likelihood of your liquor licence application being successful and ready to use when you intend.

By Angus Ferguson,
Associate Solicitor

Call or email me today for a free case evaluation in relation to any liquor licensing issue.