Australia: Retail businesses and the trading hours jigsaw puzzle in Queensland

Last Updated: 12 April 2016
Article by Katie Miller
Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2017

Retail businesses often ask the question: What hours am I allowed to open my business for trade?

The answer should be a simple one, but in Queensland, the answer is anything but simple.

To answer the question, you need to consider a complex number of factors – such as lease trading hours' restrictions, development approval conditions, liquor licence conditions, legislative trading zones, business type, business ownership structure and the number of employees engaged in the business.

Allowable trading hours under the Trading (Allowable Hours) Act 1990 (Qld)

The "allowable trading hours" for retail business in a particular location are determined under the Trading (Allowable Hours) Act 1990 (Qld) (Act). 

Categories of shops under the Act

The Act sets out 3 main categories of shops for the purposes of determining allowable trading hours:


Exempt shops There is a list of certain types of retail businesses in the Act that are exempt. For example, chemists, bakeries, delicatessens, newsagents, fruit shops, restaurants, cafes and service stations.  Exempt shops have the least restrictions under the Act.
Independent retail shops Whether you operate an independent retail shop will depend upon the ownership structure of your business and your number of employees.  The Act sets out the requirements for a retail business to qualify as an independent retail shop.  The Act places some restrictions on the allowable trading hours of independent retail shops.
Non-exempt shops Non-exempt shops are those that do not fall into either the exempt category or the independent shops category.  The Act places the most restrictions on the allowable trading hours of non-exempt shops.


Queensland Industrial Relations Commission orders

The Act allows the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) to make orders about allowable trading hours. 

Once a retail business has determined which of the above 3 categories under the Act apply, you need to look at the QIRC orders to determine the actual allowable trading hours that will apply at your business location.

The QIRC orders establish 43 geographical trading zones within Queensland with different allowable trading hours.  Within South-East Queensland alone there are many geographical trading zones, including for example:

South-East Queensland Area The Inner City of Brisbane The City Heart of the Inner City of Brisbane
Area of New Farm of the Inner City of Brisbane Toowong Retail Precinct Hamilton North Shore Area
Gold Coast Coastal Tourist Area Gold Coast Area Sunshine Coast Area


Once a retail business has determined which geographical trading zone the business is located in, it should at that point be apparent what the allowable trading hours are for the business.  However, that is not always the case.  It is also necessary to look at the various specific exceptions and distinctions contained in the QIRC orders.  For example, there are exceptions and distinctions for certain supermarkets, butcher shops, hardware stores, special exhibitions, boat shows, truck shows, camping expos, agricultural shows, trade fairs, travel expos, and some large shopping centres in specific locations.

Other potential restrictions on trading hours

Even if a shop is exempt under the Act, there may be various other restrictions on the trading hours of a business contained in agreements, permits or other laws.  For example:

  • if the business operates from a shop that is leased, the terms of the lease may restrict the trading hours. 

Businesses should negotiate appropriate trading hours that suit the business when entering into a lease.  If a landlord agrees to allow the business to trade outside of the usual hours for the property, the business should carefully consider what the landlord will charge the business for operating during those additional hours (for example, the costs associated with extra security, cleaning, lighting or air-conditioning);

  • a development approval for the property may contain conditions that restrict trading hours. 

It is important for businesses to understand the requirements of the development approvals that apply to the property, which may limit the trading hours, goods delivery times, drive-thru operation times (which may be different to the permitted operation times for the main restaurant/café) and garbage collection times.

  • any liquor licence or other authority approval for the business may contain conditions about trading hours.

Putting the trading hours jigsaw puzzle together

There are instances where two businesses in the same general location selling similar products are governed by different allowable trading hours restrictions.  A business may be competing in the same market for the same customers, but may be at a disadvantage because of trading hours restrictions.

There is a complex puzzle of shop categories, trading zones and specific exceptions and distinctions under the Trading (Allowable Hours) Act 1990 (Qld) and the QIRC orders.  This is further complicated by trading hours restrictions in leases, development approvals and other authority approvals. 

The jigsaw of trading hours requirements is not a quick and easy puzzle to put together.  Retail businesses should seek advice if unsure about permitted trading hours.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

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Katie Miller
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