Australia: New Liquor Licence Types And Confirmed Fee Structure

From 1 January 2009 all liquor licences in Queensland will be re-categorised into the new streamlined licence types under the amended Liquor Act 1992 (Liquor Act). On 12 December 2008, the Government promulgated the amendments to the Liquor Regulation 2002, which sets out the new annual licence fee structure. The first instalment of annual licence fees will be levied at the start of January 2009 and due for payment by 2 March 2009.

Summary of licence-type restructure

The new licence structure broadly divides liquor licences into "commercial" and "community" licences. "Commercial" licences will be further divided into:

  • commercial hotel licences;
  • commercial special facility licences; and
  • commercial other licences.

These licence types form the basis for the amount of annual fees charged on each licence.

There are five further subcategories of licences under the "commercial other" type:

  • subsidiary on-premises licence;
  • subsidiary off-premises licence;
  • bar licence;
  • industrial canteen licence; and
  • producer/wholesaler licence.

Originally, the proposed changes did not retain special facility licences as a licence type. A number of special facility licensees and Deacons made submissions to the Government pressing for the retention of special facility licences. The Government took these submissions into account and retained special facility licences, including the ability to trade 24 hours for airport and casino premises.

Also of interest is the new "commercial other – bar licence". Licences for small bars have been available in Victoria for some time and in Western Australia since 2007. The idea behind small bar licences is to provide a comparatively simple and cost-effective licence for small venues, partly in the hope of encouraging a more responsible drinking culture. Small bars in Queensland must have limited seating for no more than 60 patrons at any one time. In contrast to a commercial hotel licence (which has a base annual fee of $2,700), the annual licence fee for a bar licence will be $500, plus any additional fees for other risk factors (see below).

Like the commercial licence category, the "Community" licence type will also be subdivided into:

  • community club licence; and
  • community other licence.

A "community other licence" is a general community licence for the provision of facilities and services to a club's members and the achievement of the club's objectives, while "community club licence" is the successor licence type to existing Club licences.

Transition of existing licences

From 1 January 2009 all existing licences in Queensland will be converted to the new licence types. The transitional provisions of the Liquor and Other Acts Amendment Act 2008 list the new licence types for the conversion:

Existing licence type New licence type
General licence Commercial hotel licence
Special facility licence Commercial special facility licence
Residential licence Subsidiary on-premises licence
On-premises licence Subsidiary on-premises licence
Producer/wholesaler licence Producer/wholesaler licence
Limited licence relating to a canteen Industrial canteen licence
Limited licence relating to a business other than a canteen (for example, a florist that includes bottles of wine in gift baskets) Subsidiary off-premises licence
Club licence Community club licence

The Government has noted in its recent paper "Final Outcomes – Review of the Liquor Act 1992" (Final Outcomes Paper) that, in some circumstances, licensees will have the option to change licence type (with the approval of the Chief Executive of the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing) if a different licence type is better suited to how the licensee intends to operate the business in future. At this time, the Government has not released any information beyond this general proposition, however we understand that special facility licensees have been written to by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing and told that they have the option of applying for a commercial other (subsidiary on-premises) licence instead of transitioning to a commercial special facility licence.

Licence fees

The Liquor and Other Legislation Amendment Regulation (No. 1) 2008 confirms the licence fee structure previously publicised by the Government.

Base annual fees range from $250 for "community – other" licences, to $10,000 for a special facility trading 5 am to 12 midnight. Originally, no provision was made for the fact that a number of outlets may operate under the authority of one special facility licence. Following submissions on the proposed changes, the Government amended the fee structure so that up to 10 outlets can operate under a special facility licence for the one annual fee. Each outlet beyond 10 will incur an additional $1,000 in annual fees.

A commercial hotel licence has an annual fee of $2,700, plus $3,000 for each detached bottle shop, and commercial other licences will attract a $500 fee. Community club licences will pay $500 per annum for less than 2,000 members and $2,200 per annum for more than 2,000 members.

Licensees must also conduct a self-assessment for further annual fees relating to practices that elevate the risk of harm.

Licensees who trade in extended hours will pay $7,500 for 12 midnight to 3 am trade, and $10,000 for 3 am to 5 am trade. Approved trade from 7 am to 9 am will attract a further fee of $1,000, and trade between 9 am and 10 am will attract an additional $500. Extended hours that only apply to weekends will attract a pro-rata fee, so for example, premises trading 12 midnight to 3 am on weekends only will attract a fee of $5,625, rather than the full $7,500.

Licensees who do not have meals available up to 2 hours prior to closing will pay an extra $1,000 per annum. There is an exception for this extra fee for business that a person would not ordinarily expect liquor to be available for sale. Examples given in the regulation include cinemas, hospitals, retirement villages and TAFE institutions.

The Government has not included the previously proposed annual fees relating to increased noise and the fees for a poor compliance history. This is particularly interesting given the focus on harm minimisation.

Payment of fees will be self-assessed by licensees. Fees will be levied on 1 July each year for the whole financial year, payable by 31 July. The first instalment of fees will be a half fee for the period from 1 January 2009 to 30 June 2009, and will be due on 2 March 2009 and not 31 January 2009 as originally proposed.

Failure to pay fees by the due date will result in a suspension of the licence for 28 days. If the fees are not paid during that 28 day period, the licence will be cancelled.

Application fees for new licences have been set at $5,000 for commercial hotel and commercial special facility licences, and $1,000 for commercial other licences. The application fee for a community club licence is $2,200 and $500 for a community other licence.

Prepare for the new licence types and licence fees

Deacons can assist with any issues you have in the transition to the new licence types on 1 January 2009, and can assist with the new opportunities for small bars.

All licensees should prepare for the new fees payable by 2 March 2009.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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