Victoria boasts a world-class hospitality scene. But there’s always room for one more venue where patrons can enjoy a quick beer after work or a cheeky cocktail … or three.

However, opening a new bar, restaurant or cafe can come with a checklist as long as your arm. You don’t just have to perfect your concept, raise funding and choose your business’ structure – but also apply for all the relevant licences and permits you’ll need to legally open your hospitality business.

And, if you’re planning on serving alcohol, one of the first items on your to-do list should be getting a liquor licence. But how does the process work in Victoria?

What liquor licence do you need?

 Believe it or not, but there are more than 13 kinds of liquor licences in Victoria including:

  • BYO permits (allowing customers to bring their own liquor for consumption on the premises)
  • Bottleshop licences
  • Late-night licences
  • One-off event licences
  • Sporting and community club licences

So the first thing you need to work out is which type of licence is right for you. The answer to that will depend on several factors such as:

  • The trading hours of your venue
  • Where your customers will be consuming alcohol
  • If you’re offering food in addition to beverages

Luckily, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) has a handy ‘what liquor licence do I need?’ selector tool to guide you towards the right licence for your business or event.

You may find you need a couple of permits to run your business legally.

 How do you apply for a liquor licence?

Once you’ve got your head around the different licence options, you’ll need to complete the relevant application from the VCGLR and pay a fee.

Be warned, this isn’t a box-ticking exercise. As the VCGLR says, holding a liquor licence is a privilege, not a right – and selling alcohol comes with serious obligations.

That means you may be required to:

  • Undergo a police check to confirm you are a ‘suitable person’ that the community can have confidence in to abide by the conditions of the licence
  • Complete an approved Responsible Servicing of Alcohol (RSA) training course

You’ll also have to provide:

  • An approved plan of the premises – including boundaries and the proposed licensed areas
  • A planning permit from the local council (or evidence a permit is not required)

Once your application is in, you have to display a ‘public notice’ form on the premises – so people have the opportunity to object to your application.

Finally, the VCGLR will scrutinise your application (and any objections) before deciding whether to grant you a liquor licence.

What happens when you buy an existing business?

 While you can transfer an existing liquor licence between parties, buying an established hospitality business doesn’t let you off the hook when it comes to the application process.

You’ll still need to sign and complete the relevant VCGLR application form (including police questionnaire) as well as evidence you’ve done your RSA training. However, you won’t need to display a public notice on the premises.

Blaine Hattie is a hospitality lawyer at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers.

Getting a liquor licence can be a complex process. Make it easier by having an expert hospitality lawyer in your corner. Call Sutton Laurence King on 03 9070 9810 or fill out this online form.