Changes to Liquor Licensing Compliance During COVID

Article 25 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the hospitality industry both in Australia and around the world.  Thankfully, NSW Liquor & Gaming has publicly acknowledged the challenges faced by the industry at this time. They have recognised that COVID-19 has created an exceptional set of circumstances for businesses and advised that they will take a ‘reasonable and proportionate approach’ to compliance given the current restrictions on normal trade at licensed premises.

A couple of key areas that impact liquor licensing during COVID include:

1. Licensed premises providing take-away or home delivery services.

Given the limitations on numbers of people dining in during COVID, many restaurants and cafes have adapted their menus to offer a range of take-away and home delivery options.  Not all licensed premises are authorised to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises.  NSW Liquor & Gaming will take a reasonable approach to compliance in these circumstances and advise that it is possible to offer take-away and delivery services, however any sale of liquor must occur from the registered address of the licensed premises and a system of controls should be in place to ensure that liquor is not sold to minors or to intoxicated persons.

2. Licence conditions aimed at managing public amenity and safety risks.

With larger premises limiting numbers, NSW Liquor & Gaming has also advised that they will take a flexible approach to enforcing licence conditions that require the presence of security guards, responsible service of alcohol (RSA) marshals or other designated staff roles designed to minimise risk to public safety when the venue is operating at full capacity. 

Compliance and Enforcement

It is important to note that liquor licensing compliance and enforcement activity will continue during this period of government restrictions.  NSW Liquor & Gaming has advised that its primary focus in regard to liquor licensing during COVID will be on matters that pose a significant risk to public safety and in particular the sale or supply of alcohol to minors or intoxicated persons.  These offences are considered some of the most serious under the Liquor Act 2007 and attract significant penalties, including possible imprisonment.

The key to ensuring your ongoing compliance with liquor licence conditions is to develop strict policies and procedures that will minimise the risk of a breach.  If you would like assistance with understanding the conditions of your licence and how you can maintain compliance during COVID, call Matthew Williams our experienced liquor licensing lawyer on 02 8556 0130.