Say goodbye to 24 hour room service and mini-bars, champagne breakfasts and early morning weddings at some of Queensland's special tourist facilities!
On 4 August 2009 the State Parliament passed the Resorts and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2009 (Amending Act) as a measure to 'modernise the governance and development' of the six integrated development resorts1 in Queensland.2
Speaking in Parliament, the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Stirling Hinchliffe said that the Amending Act:
In doing so, the Amending Act seeks to align the body corporate and planning regimes at these resorts with the rest of Queensland.4
However, from 11 August 2009, the Amending Act also amends the Liquor Act 1992 (Liquor Act) generally by purporting to:
- allow greater flexibility for trading for industrial canteens;
- remove early trading hours for commercial special facility licences, other than airports and casinos; and
- adjust the regulatory requirements for certain low risk premises.5
Whilst the amendments to the Liquor Act in respect of industrial canteens and 'low risk premises' provide welcome relief for mining companies, retirement village operators, limousine drivers, hairdressers and barbers and their customers, they will give some of this State's major tourist operators a serious headache.
From the parliamentary debates it is clear the recent harm minimisation push has achieved bipartisan support, however, this attempt to bring the trading hours of commercial special facility licences (Special Facilities) into line with the other types of commercial licences such as hotels6 has an unfortunate side effect.
As is so often the case, the devil is in the detail. The amendments mean that some of Queensland's most iconic resorts can no longer offer room service or mini-bars to their international and domestic residents and guests between the hours of 5am and 9am.7 Electronic, remote locking devices appear to be the only customer friendly way of shutting off mini-bars during this 4 hour window. But is this financially viable?
Additionally, some licensees will have to urgently apply for extended hours permits or approvals8 if they hope to honour future bookings for any champagne breakfast or early morning wedding occurring before 10am.9
Worse still for an industry so ravaged by swine flu and the global financial crisis, the Amending Act includes a provision which states that no compensation is payable to these operators as a result of them losing the ability to trade between 5am and 10am.
Whilst a stated aim of the Amending Act is to make licensing conditions more consistent across Queensland, the amendments place Special Facilities at a competitive disadvantage. This is because the holders of hotel licences or accommodation licences are still able to serve liquor to their residents and guests "at any time", subject to certain conditions.10 This relaxation is not afforded to any other type of liquor licence.
So say goodbye to 24 hour room service and mini-bars, champagne breakfasts and early morning weddings at some of this State's Special Facilities. This appears to be a particularly unfortunate result, especially given these venues are the very resorts that make a significant contribution to the tourism development of the State,11 and prior to 1 January 2009, were the only venues at which licensees could lawfully let part of their licensed premises (e.g. letting pools for serviced apartments).12
The Liquor Act was amended late last year to make its primary object harm minimisation.13 So, presumably the trading restrictions now placed on resorts are a consequence of the government's fear of the harmful effects these private activities will have on their local communities. Why then does it permit late night liquor consumption and gambling at casinos?
Another of the Liquor Act's objects is facilitating the optimum development of the tourist, liquor and hospitality industries of the State.14 How do these amendments promote the tourist, liquor and hospitality industries?
At this time, it is unclear why the 24 hour consumption of liquor by residents and guests15 is permitted under hotel licences and accommodation licences, but has not been extended to resorts operating at Special Facilities.
Sadly, these restrictions are just another blow dealt to the operators of Special Facilities seeking to attract the increasingly discerning tourist in a market already suffering the effects of swine flu and the global financial crisis.
1 Being: Sanctuary Cove Resort, Royal Pines Resort, Hope Island Resort, Kingfisher Bay Resort, Laguna Whitsundays Resort and the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas Resort.
2 Queensland, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 4 August 2009, 1372-1373 (Peta-Kaye Croft, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Services and Member for Broadwater).
3 Queensland, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 19 May 2009, 303 (Stirling Hinchliffe, Minister for Infrastructure and Planning and Member for Stafford).
4 Refer: Integrated Planning Act 1997 for planning and development and the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 for regulating bodies corporate management.
5 Explanatory Notes, Resorts and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2009 (Qld) 2.
6 Queensland, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 4 August 2009, 1376 (Jan Jarratt, Parliamentary Secretary for Employment and Economic Development and Member for Whitsunday).
7 On the assumption that licensees will receive extended trading hours approval between 12 midnight and 5am and between 9am and 10am under Division 7, Part 3 of the Liquor Act 1992.
8 Under Division 7, Part 3 of the Liquor Act 1992.
9 Resorts and Other Acts Amendment Act 2009, s53.
10 Liquor Act 1992, ss62 & 67B.
11 Liquor Act 1992, s63.
12 Refer Liquor Act 1992, ss149 & 153 prior to the amendments made by Liquor and Other Acts Amendment Act 2008, s53. Refer also: Good Earth Hotels Australia v SPHC Australia Ltd and Sun Australia  QSC 28; Goodearth Hotels Aust (Gold Coast) Pty Ltd v SPHC Australia Limited & Anor  QCA 545 and SPHC Australia Limited and Centra Hotels Management Pty Ltd v Good Earth Hotels Australia (Gold Coast) Pty Ltd  QSC.
13 Liquor and Other Acts Amendment Act 2008, s4.
14 Liquor Act 1992, s3(a)-(b).
15 Liquor Act 1992, ss62 & 67B.
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.