Australian businesses that sell liquor have to follow a strict set of regulations. These rules are in place for a reason – to keep patrons and staff safe. Should you not comply, you could face stiff fines or lose your licence.

To avoid this, make sure you adhere to the legal obligations of your liquor licence, which differs from state to state. Here’s what to be aware of if you’re a liquor licencee.

Make sure you have the right type licence

Each state has its own liquor licence classifications. Victoria has 13 licence categories. The type of licence you’ll need depends on various factors. These include:

  • The type of business you have, such as a restaurant, hotel, bar or club. Licences may also be required for food trucks, one-time events and if you operate a gaming establishment.
  • Whether you plan to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises or takeaway liquor. You’ll need an additional permit if you plan to sell alcohol after 1am or allow bring-your-own (BYO) beverages.

Once you have a liquor licence, you must comply with your licence’s stipulations. The following four legal obligations apply in most states.

  1. Display the required signage

You must display the relevant liquor signage in a way that is visible to customers. Each state has its own signage posters, many of which are downloadable from the local authority’s website.

In Victoria, the liquor licence must be clearly displayed, along with posters applicable to your type of business, including:

  • Intoxicated? Drunk? Disorderly?
  • Under 18? No Supply.
  • Under 18? Can you enter?
  • Do not attempt to buy liquor for under 18s.

These posters can be downloaded from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation’s website.

  1. Do not sell alcohol outside trading hours

Most liquor licences prohibit the sale of alcohol outside trading hours. The last drink should be served just before closing time and you may allow customers to finish a drink up to 30 minutes after closing. If you would like to extend the hours of sale, you will need to apply for a late-night licence.

  1. Ensure patron and staff safety

If you run a hospitality business, the onus is on you to provide a safe environment for both customers and staff. This includes serving alcohol responsibly and taking steps to curb drunk and disorderly behaviour.

This may mean refusing entry to someone who is intoxicated or under the age of 18. You may also refuse to serve drinks to someone who appears intoxicated and remove disruptive or aggressive customers to keep other customers and your staff safe.

  1. Keep the noise level down

As drinks flow, noise levels tend to rise. The law requires businesses like bars and clubs to keep a check on noise levels so they don’t disturb local residents. This includes patrons arriving or leaving the venue or noisy patrons congregating outside the venue on the street, pavement or outdoor seating area.

Your establishment could be inspected at any time, without notice. Failing to adhere to the conditions of your liquor may incur penalties such as fines and possible suspension or cancellation of your licence.

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

If you’re unsure about what licence you require or unclear on the conditions of the licence, we’re here to help. Contact Sutton Laurence King online or call 03 9070 9810. One of our commercial lawyers can assist with applying for a liquor licence and explain the legal obligations attached to it.