Licensee Obligations

LIQUOR LICENSING > LICENSEE OBLIGATIONS


Selling alcohol comes with very real and serious obligations. As a result, Consumer & Business Services has released a guidelines to help licensees understand their liquor licence and associated responsibilities.


It is an offence under the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 to sell or supply liquor to a person who is intoxicated. An offence may be committed by the licensee, responsible person and the person by whom the liquor is sold or supplied.

The definition of intoxicated under the Act means that a person is intoxicated if the person’s speech, balance, co‑ordination or behaviour is noticeably affected; and it is reasonable in the circumstances to believe that the affected speech, balance, co‑ordination or behaviour is the result of the consumption of liquor or some other substance.

This means that intoxication can arise from liquor, a licit drug such as ‘over the counter substances’, or an illicit drug (such as amphetamines), or a combination of these substances.

Bar staff may refuse service to a person on the basis of they believe the person is intoxicated (even if the person is not intoxicated).

In assessing intoxication, bar staff must consider and rule out any conditions or disabilities that may result in a person displaying symptoms or signs that may be confused with intoxication.

It is a defence for bar staff charged with selling or supplying liquor to an intoxicated person, if they believed on reasonable grounds that the person to whom it was sold or supplied was not intoxicated.

If the employee is charged with serving an intoxicated person, it as a defence for licensees and responsible persons if the employee exercised proper care to prevent the sale or supply of liquor to an intoxicated person.

Licensees can refuse entry or remove a person from the premises if the person is intoxicated or behaving in an offensive or disorderly manner.

Download the guidelines

A licensee must establish and maintain appropriate practices to minimise undue offence, annoyance, disturbance, noise or inconvenience to people who reside, work or worship in the vicinity of the licensee’s premises.

As there is the potential for noise or disturbance to occur as a result of activities on the licensed premises or the conduct of patrons making their way to or from licensed premises, licensees need to be vigilant by monitoring sound levels and patron behaviour.

A licensee’s responsibility doesn’t begin and end at the front door. Good management involves surveillance in and in the vicinity of the licensed premises and responding positively to any complaints from nearby residents.

The Code of Practice under Section 42 of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997, provides that a licensee has an obligation to minimise the amount of:

  • offence
  • annoyance
  • disturbance
  • noise or
  • inconvenience

to people who live, work or worship in the vicinity of licensed premises, which result from activities on a licensed premises or the conduct of people making their way to or from licensed premises.

The licensing authority (The Consumer and Business Services and the Licensing Court) must have regard to the potential effects that noise and other disturbances may have on those who live, work or worship near licensed premises before granting or removing a licence, or granting an extended trading authorisation or an entertainment consent.

For this reason the licensing authority may, when determining an application, impose conditions on a licence to minimise the noise and disturbance to those who live, work or worship nearby.

Licensees have an obligation to minimise the impact of noise emanating from their licensed premises or by the behaviour of their patrons.

Conciliation hearing

The Commissioner will attempt to conciliate between all parties. If the matter is resolved by conciliation, terms of settlement may become conditions of the licence.

If conciliation cannot be achieved, the parties must choose whether the matter will be referred to the Licensing Court or dealt with by the Commissioner as a contested hearing.

In some circumstances, the Commissioner may issue direction to, or impose conditions on the licensee before or during the conciliation proceedings about the subject of the complaint.

If the matter proceeds to a contested hearing, the licensing authority will take into account a number of relevant factors including:

  • the period of time the activity has been occurring
  • the trading hours and character of the business
  • the desired future character of the area in which the licensed premises is situated
  • the history of the premises, including any history of live music whether or not the noise from the premises is reasonable in the circumstances
  • any environment protection policies that exist under the Environment Protection Act 1993, that apply to the provision of live music on the premises
  • any other matter that the Commissioner or the Court considers relevant.

Each case will be considered on its merits, having regard to all relevant factors.

If you have concerns about noise or patron behaviour, please contact this office for advice, or

To lodge a complaint download the complaints form and lodge with the Consumer and Business Services.

Licensing Court referrals

In hearing and determining a complaint under this section, the Commissioner or the Licensing Court:

  • must give the complainant, the licensee and any other person whom the Commissioner or the Licensing Court thinks fit to hear an opportunity to be heard
  • must take into account-
    • the relevant history of the licensed premises in relation to other premises in the vicinity and, in particular, the period of time over which the activity, noise or behaviour complained about has been occurring and any significant change at any relevant time in the level or frequency at which it has occurred
    • the unreasonableness or otherwise of the activity, noise or behaviour complained about
    • the trading hours and character of the business carried out by the licensee on the licensed premises
    • the desired future character of the locality in which the licensed premises are situated as stated in any relevant Development Plan under the Development Act 1993
    • whether or not any environment protection policy made under Part 5 of the Environment Protection Act 1993, or guidelines published by the Environment Protection Authority established under that Act, applicable to the provision of live music on the licensed premises have been complied with
    • any other matter that the Commissioner or the Licensing Court considers relevant.

In determining the matter the Commissioner or the Licensing Court may:

  • dismiss the complaint or
  • make an order against the licensee resolving the subject matter of the complaint.

The order may add to or vary the conditions of the licence.

If a proposal for settlement of the subject matter of the complaint is made in the course of proceedings before the Commissioner, evidence of the proposal is inadmissible in proceedings before the Licensing Court.

An interim order of the Commissioner under this section continues in force until the making of a final order on the complaint by the Commissioner or the Licensing Court, or earlier revocation of the interim order by the Commissioner or the Licensing Court.