The changes to the liquor licensing regime in Queensland are now in full swing. Licensees should have paid the first instalment of annual licence fees and commenced applying for extended hours permits if they wish to trade beyond 3am. As with most applications, applications to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) for extended hours permits must now include a Risk Assessed Management Plan (RAMP).
This legal update provides information on:
- annual licence fees; and
- extended trading hours.
- RAMPs are now mandatory for:
- new licence applications;
- applications to renew 3am to 5am trading prior to 31 March 2009;
- extended trading hours approvals;
- applications to permanently vary a licence;
- applications to permanently change the licensed area;
- transfers of existing licences; and
- restricted liquor permits.
RAMPs are markedly different from existing house policies. RAMPs should focus on venue-specific, practical procedures and policies to minimise the risk of harm caused by the abuse or misuse of alcohol. The OLGR is not looking for mission statements or general policies. All proposed RAMPs will be reviewed and approved by the Chief Executive of the OLGR before any of the above applications are approved.
The OLGR's attitude to RAMPs is that they are an undertaking given by licensees to the Chief Executive to run the licensed business according to the RAMP. Section 54(1)(c) of the Liquor Act 1992 states that licensees must ensure that all staff and crowd controllers at the premises are aware of the approved RAMP at the premises and comply with it in performing their duties. This means that, if an investigator or the police observe a business not operating in accordance with the approved RAMP for the premises, there will be grounds to issue a breach notice. This reinforces the message that a RAMP should be practical and able to be consistently complied with.
The Liquor Regulation 2002 lists the important matters that must be addressed in a RAMP:
- responsible service of alcohol;
- liquor accords;
- arrangements at the premises with respect to:
- noise mitigation;
- transport services;
- provision of meals;
- training of staff;
- dealing with minors on the premises;
- dealing with unduly intoxicated and disorderly patrons on the premises;
- how the impact of the business on the amenity of the community will be limited;
- consultation with community and liquor industry groups;
- ensuring the conduct of business at the premises complies with the Act and other laws, such as:
- Footpath dining;
- Designated Outdoor Smoking Areas;
- Advertising of events;
- Number of patrons on premises (e.g. building regulations or any limits on patron numbers);
- Functions on premises; and
- Catering off-site.
As stated above, it is important the licensees address the above issues with practical ideas and procedures. Licensees could consider practical steps such as (for example):
- replacing glass with plastic to minimise the risk of injury to patrons;
- leaving certain rubbish items (such as bottles) on premises until a reasonable time to dispose of it outside to minimise noise disturbance; or
- implementing a plan to disburse patrons at closing time with minimal disturbance to the surrounding community, such as the use of cues like increased lighting or announcements to disburse patrons gradually before closing time.
Licensees must give extensive thought to the preparation of their RAMPs, as at the end of the day, the licensee will be liable if the RAMP is not complied with.
Annual fees for compliance history
Annual fees for compliance history were not brought in with the other changes to the Liquor Act on 1 January 2009. Compliance history annual fees will form part of the annual fees for licensees, however, the first instalment will not be due until July 2010 and will be based on compliance for the period 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010.
One of the incidents that will attract increased licence fees is a "Major Trauma" in a licensee's compliance history. Just what is a "Major Trauma" has not been clearly defined, however Deacons' understanding is that a major trauma will include the death of a patron, and may include serious injury to a patron resulting from violence on licensed premises, particularly where there has been a lapse in security.
Annual licence fees – date for payment and consequences of non-payment
By now, most (if not all) licensees will have paid the first instalment of annual licence fees (a half payment for the first six months of 2009). While the Liquor Regulation 2002 states that the first instalment of fees is due by 2 March 2009, the OLGR required payment of the fees by 31 January 2009. This allows an extra one month for licensees that are not able to pay fees on time. The consequences for non-payment by 2 March 2009 are serious – the licence is automatically suspended for a period of 28 days (there is no discretion for the Chief Executive of the OLGR not to suspend the licence), and the licence is cancelled if payment is not received within that 28 day period.
Extended trading hours
As licensees will be aware (from correspondence from the OLGR), all current approvals for extended trading hours past 3 am end on 31 March 2009. There is no possibility of extension. Licensees who wish to continue to trade after 3 am must lodge an application for an extended hours permit. The application must be accompanied by a RAMP (amongst other requirements) and must be lodged by 21 February 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.