Alcohol licensing

What is a licence to sell alcohol?

Sale of alcohol to the public requires the seller to have a licence. There are four types of licence:

  • On-licence (eg, pub, tavern, hotel, restaurant, cafe, bar, entertainment venue, train, plane) allows the sale or supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises.
  • Off-licence (eg, bottle store, supermarket) allows the sale or supply of alcohol for consumption off the premises.
  • Club licence (eg, sports club, RSA, working men's club) allows the sale or supply of alcohol for consumption on the club premises to members of the club, their guests and members of other clubs with reciprocal visiting rights.
  • Special licence (eg, for a food and wine festival, wedding in a council hall etc) allows the sale or supply of alcohol to anyone attending an event, private function, street party, sporting event. Special licences can be either ‘on-site’ for consumption on the premises, or ‘off-site’ for consumption elsewhere.

An on-licence, off-licence, or club licence is granted initially for one year and then can be renewed every three years. Special licences are granted per event or for a series of events.

What does a licence to sell alcohol allow?

It allows the licensee to sell alcohol according to the conditions of the licence. Conditions cover such things as:

  • who alcohol can be sold to

  • the hours and days alcohol can be sold

  • who is allowed on the premises

  • the range of food, non-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks to be provided

  • provision of information about alternative transport arrangements.

There are requirements that may not be included on a licence but must nevertheless be adhered to. It is against the law for a licensee or their staff to sell alcohol to anyone who is intoxicated, to allow a person to become intoxicated, or to serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 18 years. There are heavy penalties for these offences.


If you're working in the alcohol industry as a licensee, manager or bar staff, we have plenty of useful resources as well as general information you may find handy.