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Tim Anderson QC was engaged by the Government of South Australia to conduct a review of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (‘the Act’). His 2016 report made 129 recommendations aimed at modernising the existing regulatory system. As a result of the review, the Liquor Licensing (Liquor Review) Amendment Act 2017 was passed by the South Australian Parliament on 14 November 2017.

What has happened so far?

The reforms have been split into three key stages, with stages one and two already implemented.

The first stage of reforms commenced in December 2017 and included:

  • stronger penalties for service of alcohol to minors;
  • changes to advertising requirements for new applications, including removal of requirement to give written notice to the relevant Council or occupiers of adjacent land;
  • relaxation of restricted trading hours (Sundays and Public Holidays); and
  • removal of requirement for licensed venues to obtain consent to host a range of entertainment, including live music (unless such entertainment is prescribed by the Act)

The second stage of reforms commenced in September 2018 and introduced additional changes including tougher penalties for breaches of the Act and restrictions on alcohol sales via the internet.

What changes are coming?

Stage three is due to be implemented commencing in November 2019. Key reforms include an overhaul of existing licences, Council’s input in the licensing process and replacement of the needs test.

New licence categories

Of particular importance are the widespread changes to existing licence categories, with many of the current categories being replaced with entirely new ones. Of particular note, special circumstances licences will be abolished with these licences being transitioned to one of the new categories, depending on the nature of the business. For example, events and periodic festivals will now need to apply for new short term licences which will be valid for three years.

Existing licences will automatically transition to the new licence categories in November.

Input from Councils

Councils will no longer have the automatic right to intervene in liquor licensing proceedings. Councils will only have the ability to make submissions on matters relating to planning or the carrying out of building work, and only if a combined assessment panel has been established under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016to be involved in the assessment of the application under the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (at the same time as acting as a relevant authority under that Act).

Needs test

The ‘needs test’ that, until now, had to be satisfied when applying for certain licences such as a hotel licence will be replaced by the community interest test and community impact assessment guidelines. The Community Interest Test involves an assessment of the cultural, employment, tourism, or social impacts an application may have, as well as the potential harm (whether to the community as a whole or a group within the community) due to the excessive or inappropriate consumption of liquor. The licensing authority must apply the community impact assessment guidelines in determining whether or not an application is in the community interest.

Should you have any questions regarding the new liquor licensing requirements or need to seek clarification regarding your licence, please contact a member of Mellor Olsson’s Planning team.

This article first appeared in the December edition of SA Planner magazine.