Liquor Licensing Enters a New COVID-19 Age

Article Matthew Williams 08 May 2020

We are in unprecedented times at the moment with hotels, registered clubs and other licensed premises restricted to take away sales or closed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we continue along this path of new business measures the NSW Government, in consultation with the National Cabinet, is implementing new conditions for licensed premises and relaxing financial constraints at the same time.

Special Relief Measures

In a move that will help many small bars and other licensed premises, the NSW Government has relaxed licence conditions and allowed small bars and other licensed restaurants and cafes to sell takeaway alcohol and deliveries in a move to reduce the economic impacts of the COVID-19 shutdowns.  The new arrangements came into force on 23 March 2020 and will apply while the shutdown order is in force under the Public Health Act 2010.

In addition to the above, the NSW Government is giving eligible businesses in the entertainment and hospitality sectors access to a 12-month waiver on liquor licences and certain Safe Work NSW and NSW Fair Trading fees and charges.

The NSW Government’s economic stimulus package will allow the waiving of a range of liquor licence fees for businesses in the hospitality and entertainment industries. Most licensees will have their annual liquor licence base fee and trading hours risk loading fee waived for 12 months (2020-2021 fee period). If you are one of these licensees you will receive a $0 invoice via SMS or email, depending on your contact details held with Liquor and Gaming NSW.

Although most licensees will receive this benefit, other licensees with Compliance risk loadings will only have their fees deferred and included as part of 2021-2022 annual liquor licence fees.

Those licensees eligible for the fee waiver include:

  • small bar licence
  • microbreweries and small distilleries licence
  • on-premises licence
  • Club licence
  • Hotel licence
  • Producer/wholesaler licence
  • Limited licences
  • General bar licence
  • Packaged liquor licence (if three or less outlets are owned by the same licensee or business).

In some cases, where a business is experiencing financial hardship but is not eligible for the automatic annual liquor licence fee waiver, the NSW Government will consider a fee waiver.

Check the type of licence you have to see whether you may be eligible for the waiver, or email Matthew Williams, our experienced Liquor Licensing lawyer for advice.

The Future of Liquor Licensing

In addition to the above relief measures during the Pandemic, there are other key proposals being discussed which are open for public submissions.  These include:

  • A new incentives and sanctions system with ongoing fee discounts for licensed venues that maintain a clear record;
  • Removal of outdated live music restrictions;
  • Allowing small bars to offer more family friendly services to customers, by permitting minors in certain circumstances;
  • Reducing red tape by aligning liquor licensing and planning processes; and
  • Enhancing same day alcohol delivery regulations.

To discuss any liquor licensing issues, or for further advice regarding your license, contact Matthew on ph: 02 8556 0130.