Liquor licensing

Responsible consumption of alcohol brings many benefits – vibrant, liveable cities and regions, prosperous businesses, and good times with friends. But while enjoying alcohol is an intrinsic part of many cultures, drinking harmfully does not have tobe. It is important to be aware of the effects of alcohol and how to minimise the risks associated with drinking. If your venue holds a liquor licence, it is important to comply with the relevant legislation and licence conditions to ensure that your venue is a safe and pleasant destination for patrons to enjoy a night out.

Minimum requirements

The Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (the Liquor Act)

The Liquor Act sets out the minimum requirements by which you need to abide if you wish to supply liquor from your premises, including the requirement to obtain a licence. The primary object of the Liquor Act is to minimise harm arising from the misuse and abuse of alcohol.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) is the authority that issues licences and regulates licensed premises.

There are several types of licences, but most live music venues hold either a general licence or an on-premises licence. All licences contain conditions that you must comply with, including trading hours, maximum patron numbers and amenity provisions.

One of the key requirements under the Liquor Act is the requirement for licensees and staff selling, offering or serving liquor for general, on premises, late night and packaged liquor licences to complete an approved Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) training course.

Licensees and staff that supply liquor under general, on-premises, late night and packaged liquor licences are required to complete a face-to-face Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) program within one month of first supplying, selling or offering liquor, and online RSA refresher programs every three years after that.

In addition, first time applicants for a liquor licence do not receive approval until they complete new entrant training. This applies to applicants for all liquor licence categories except for a pre-retail licence or a BYO permit.

Licensees are required to display their current liquor licence and any other signage required under the Liquor Act in a prominent position in their venue. Gambling and liquor inspectors or a member of the police may inspect licensed premises at any time to check compliance with the Liquor Act.

Some of the most serious offences under the Liquor Act are:

  • supplying liquor without a licence;
  • supplying liquor not in accordance with the licence;
  • supplying liquor to an intoxicated person;
  • permitting a drunken or disorderly person on the premises;
  • supplying liquor to a minor; and
  • permitting a minor on licensed premises (there are some exceptions to this rule – see Chapter 6 for hosting underage events on licensed premises).

 

Live music venue licences with crowd controller conditions

Live music venues that were granted a liquor licence prior to 6 October 2010 have crowd controller conditions on their licence. On 6 October 2010, representatives of the live music industry, the Victorian Government and the former Director of Liquor Licensing agreed to take a commonsense approach to the imposition of crowd controller conditions on live music venues.

Existing licensees can apply to have conditions relating to crowd controllers and security cameras removed or varied on their licence. This process may require licensees to complete a management plan.

A management plan allows licensees to demonstrate that they can manage their premises responsibly without the VCGLR imposing crowd controller and/or security camera conditions. As part of the management plan, the licensee can propose alternative licence conditions that are appropriate to their business. Licensees must demonstrate that they have a strategy for the management of their venue and its risks.

Licensees have the greatest capacity to control risk factors within the internal, physical environment of a venue. Licensees have the greatest influence on the operation of a licensed premises and on ensuring the safety of patrons and staff.

Measures put in place by the licensee to minimise the risks of harm within a venue are more likely to have a greater impact and be positively promoted by the licensee. A licensee’s focus on responsible venue management can provide a range of positive outcomes for patrons and the successful management of the venue. Licensees must demonstrate that they can identify and actively manage their risks in their management plan. Relevant components of the management plan will form part of the licence conditions.

The management plan identifies and develops a responsible approach to running the venue. Therefore, the licensee must identify the following in their management plan:

  • venue-specific issues
  • how they will proactively manage these issues
  • proposed licence conditions.

Full details of the VCGLR Management Plan Guidelines are provided in the application kit ‘Variation to the licence conditions for live music venues’, which can be downloaded at www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/home/liquor/new+applicants/application+kits

Best practice

Responsible alcohol advertising and promotions

Licensees have clear obligations under the Liquor Act to serve alcohol responsibly. The VCGLR has the power to ban inappropriate advertising or promotions. Such action may also result in the VCGLR seeking to vary, suspend or cancel a liquor licence.

In using these powers, the VCGLR will take into account whether the promotion is likely to encourage irresponsible consumption of alcohol or is otherwise not in the public interest. For an up-to-date list of banned promotions, go to: Promotions banned by the VCGLR.

The following 16 principles provide licensees with a quick reference guide for responsible advertising and promotion of liquor. There are also guidelines for responsible liquor advertising and promotions and a responsible liquor advertising and promotions fact sheets available to download from the VCGLR website:

Standard License Obligations

www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/liquor/liquor-accord-member/understand-your-liquor-licence/your-obligations/standard-licence-obligations

Responsible Alcohol Advertising

www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/resources/education-andtraining/responsible-alcohol-advertising-and-promotion

Principle Example of Unacceptable Practise
1. The advertising or promotion of liquor should not provide incentives that could lead to the rapid or excessive consumption of liquor. Drinking games, competitions, dares or challenges that involve rapid or excessive consumption of liquor.
2. The advertising or promotion of liquor should not encourage the stockpiling of drinks by the consumer for consumption at the licensed premises. Promotions that encourage or reward the purchase of, or drinking of, large amounts of liquor in a single session or transaction.
3. The advertising or promotion of liquor should not involve the availability of nonstandard sized drinks or the availability of liquor in receptacles that encourage rapid drinking. Serving liquor in a yard glass for skolling. Pouring liquor straight into patrons’ mouths (e.g. pouring liquor directly from a bottle or shooting liquor from a water pistol).
4. The advertising or promotion of liquor must not condone or encourage rapid or excessive drinking, drunkenness or antisocial behaviour. Advertising or promotion of events that focus mainly on the excessive consumption of liquor (binge-drinking as part of end of sporting season celebrations such as “Mad Monday”, or end of school year celebrations such as ‘Schoolies Week’ or ‘after parties’).
5. The advertising or promotion of liquor involving ‘happy hours’, free drinks or discounted drinks must have reasonable limits and controls to minimise the risk of rapid, excessive or irresponsible consumption of liquor. Promotions involving extreme discounts (e.g. $1 shots of spirits) or excessive periods of free drinks (e.g. $50 entry and free drinks all night).
6. Where limited free liquor is advertised or promoted as ancillary to a product or service, the advertising or promotion must not place the free liquor as the primary focus. Advertising that focuses exclusively on free alcohol where there are other activities to promote.
7. Where the advertising or promotion involves the inclusion of unlimited liquor within the entry price, the advertising or promotion must be consistent with responsible service of alcohol practices. Advertising or promotions that explicitly focus on the ‘all you can drink’ element of the event by using terminology such as ‘drink till you get smashed’ or ‘drink your money’s worth’.
8. The advertising or promotion of liquor must avoid sexual, degrading, sexist or gratuitously offensive images, symbols, figures and innuendo. Sexualised promotions that target women by offering free or reduced price alcohol combined with incentives to dress provocatively or remove their clothing (e.g. wet t-shirt competitions)
9. The advertising or promotion of liquor must not be linked to sexual imagery or imply sexual success. Using sexual images that depict gratuitous use of nudity to promote the supply of liquor. (e.g. using nudity to promote home delivery of liquor).
10. The advertising or promotion of liquor must not suggest any association with risk taking, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour. The use of images or messages associating the consumption of liquor with risky or dangerous activities (e.g. sky diving, motor racing, drink driving, speed boating).
11. The advertising or promotion of liquor must not portray people or depict material in a way that discriminates against, vilifies or is demeaning to any person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, age, sexual preference, religion, disability or political belief. Advertising or promotions that use stereotyping to highlight racial differences or that make fun of personal characteristics such as disability.
12. The advertising or promotion of liquor must not suggest any association with, acceptance of, or allusion to, illicit drugs. Using images, text or language that allude to drug taking behaviour or using props, settings or scenarios that link the promotion of liquor to illicit drugs.
13. The advertising or promotion of liquor must not encourage breaking the law. Linking the consumption of liquor to drink driving or to breaking the law.
14. The advertising or promotion of liquor must not encourage underage drinking. Using characters, imagery, designs, motifs, interactive games, merchandise or media that are likely to appeal to minors.
15. The advertising or promotion of liquor must not incorporate images of people who are, or who appear to look under 18 years of age, unless there is no suggestion that they have just consumed, are consuming or are about to consume liquor Depicting models in settings primarily used by minors, even where the individuals used in the advertising or promotion are over 18 (e.g. schools, youth clubs).
16. The advertising or promotion of liquor should not be likely to place any group at risk of harm. Promoting the availability of discounted liquor in ways that encourage excessive consumption by ‘at risk’ groups (e.g. window display promoting discounted liquor products with high alcohol content).

In addition to meeting your obligations under the Liquor Act, you may also promote responsible drinking by: 

  • Clearly informing patrons through written policies and signs that your venue discourages irresponsible drinking behaviour.
  • Providing free drinking water (which is a legal requirement) and considering providing free bar snacks and encouraging patrons drinking alcohol to order a meal.

There are also other measures you may take to minimise alcohol related harm in your venue, including:

Train bar staff in liquor management principles

  • Inform and train staff about liquor licensing requirements, harm minimisation issues and the consequences of not complying. 
  • Develop a house policy that sets out your venue’s approach to the service of liquor, and ensure that all staff understand it.
  • Appoint a staff member as an RSA ‘monitor’, who is responsible for supporting bar staff in serving alcohol responsibly and assisting patrons to monitor their alcohol consumption. 
  • Train management to provide support to staff when dealing with intoxicated or underage patrons.

Maintain a safe working environment

  • Maintain a safe working environment by serving drinks in toughened or shatterproof glass and regularly clearing the floor area of empty glasses and bottles.

Cooperate with authorities 

  • Cooperate with gambling and liquor inspectors and police if they conduct an inspection of your premises.
  • If you need to apply for a temporary limited licence to extend your trading hours for a special event, plan at least eight weeks ahead to ensure you obtain the licence in time. 
  • Join your local liquor forum and support its statement of intention. 
  • Keep up to date with changes in the law and other liquor-related issues by subscribing to the VCGLR’s electronic newsletter, VCGLR News.

Liquor Control Reform Act 1998

The Liquor Act is available on the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website. Look under ‘Victorian Law Today’.
www.legislation.vic.gov.au

Resources

Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation

For information about liquor licences, completing RSA training and complying with the Liquor Act, the VCGLR should be your first port of call. There are many useful fact sheets on the Publications page of the VCGLR’s website, and the Liquor Licences page provides flow charts and other information to assist you to choose the correct licence for your business.

www.vcglr.vic.gov.au

In addition, the VCGLR has released a range of obligations brochures to help licensees understand their liquor licence and associated responsibilities. Each brochure is tailored to a specific licence and provides information about the following:

  • Responsible Service of Alcohol
  • fire safety
  • required signage
  • impact on the surrounding area
  • specific conditions on your licence
  • administration and record keeping
  • compliance and audit.

There are translations available in Hindi, Vietnamese and Chinese and you may download the obligations brochures at www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/home/liquor/standard+licence+obligations/your+obligations

Address:
49 Elizabeth Street
North Richmond

Postal address:
GPO Box 1988, Melbourne 3001

Email:
contact@vcglr.vic.gov.au

Phone:
1300 1 VCGLR (1300 182 457)