Licence criteria

The object of the Act

The object of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the Act) is that:

  • the sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol should be undertaken safely and responsibly; and
  • the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised.

Under the Act, alcohol-related harm includes any crime, damage, death, disease, disorderly behaviour, illness or injury (and related harm to society generally or to the community) resulting from excessive or inappropriate alcohol consumption.

Suitability of the applicant

Suitability of an applicant may take into account: business or industry knowledge to effectively operate a licensed premises; recent experience in the industry; criminal history, association with undesirable people, or previous behaviour relating to the sale of alcohol. Suitability of the applicant is an issue that Police considers in the investigation of licence applications as it has access to information not generally available to the public. However, community groups can provide information that may not be available to Police.

Where an existing licence is being renewed with no changes to conditions, the suitability of the applicant will be the only ground for objection.

Any relevant local alcohol policy

Local alcohol policies (LAPs), adopted by territorial authorities, will be able to:

  • limit the location of on, off- and club licensed premises in particular broad areas or near certain types of premises or facilities
  • limit further on, off- or club licences in a particular area
  • restrict or extend the maximum trading hours set in the Act (see below)
  • recommend discretionary conditions on licences or groups of licences
  • impose ‘one-way door’ restrictions that would allow patrons to leave licensed premises but not enter or re-enter during specified times.

LAPs cannot include policies on matters unrelated to licensing and must be reasonable and consistent with the object of the Act.

The days and hours of sale

Default maximum trading hours are provided in the Act. They are:

  • between 8am on any day and 4am on the next day for on-licences and club-licences
  • between 7am and 11pm on any day for off-licences.

As noted above, a local alcohol policy can set different maximum permitted trading hours. A district licensing committee can issue a licence subject to more restrictive trading hours than national default hours or hours set out in LAPs.

The design and layout of premises

Good design and layout can help reduce alcohol-related harm through providing less crowding, increased safety and security and a better quality of environment. Bar layout, seating, toilets, sound, lighting, building access, security systems, ventilation and temperature control are some of the many considerations in design and layout which have the potential to improve the atmosphere and reduce risk factors contributing to crime, disorder and alcohol-related harm. The Guidelines for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) for licensed premises provide practical advice on design and layout. As case law is developed further guidance will be given.

The sale of goods other than alcohol and refreshments

In the case of grocery stores, the Act makes it clear they can sell alcohol where their principal business is the sale of food products. Regulation 6 & 7 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Regulations 2013 set out how ‘principal business’ is to be determined and Regulation 8 – 10 clarify the definition of ‘ready-to-eat foods’ and ‘snack foods’ which are not considered to be food products under the Act.

Retail off-licensed premises (for example bottle stores) will be permitted to have up to 15% of their sales from the sale of non-alcohol products.

The Act also provides that off-licences may not be issued for premises where the principal business is the sale of automotive fuels.

However, there is a range of other goods that may be considered inappropriate to sell in conjunction with alcohol. As case law is developed further guidance will be given.

The provision of other services not related to the sale of alcohol and refreshments

The Act provides that off-licences may not be issued for premises where the principal business is the repair and servicing of motor vehicles. However, there are a range of other services that may be considered inappropriate to provide in conjunction with alcohol. As case law is developed further guidance will be given.

Whether amenity and good order of the area would be substantially reduced

The Act specifies that in deciding whether amenity and good order would be reduced by more than a minor extent, the following must be taken into account:

  • current, and possible future, levels of noise, nuisance and vandalism
  • the number of other licensed premises in the area
  • compatibility with the current and future use of surrounding properties.

Amenity and good order is the quality of being pleasant, attractive or agreeable. It has a physical, or tangible, component, which could include the character and appearance of a building; proximity to shopping facilities; provision of parking facilities, traffic density and movements; quality of infrastructure; absence of noise and disorder; and unsightliness or offensive odours. It could also incorporate intangible components such as psychological, social or moral components.

If the issuing of a licence could create disturbances or inconvenience, or the premises are not likely to be in harmony with the environment, this may affect the granting of a licence or may be grounds for objection. As case law is developed further guidance will be given.

The undesirability of further licences where amenity and good order have already been reduced

The more alcohol outlets in an area the greater is the competition – which can lead to more discounting and longer opening hours. Lower prices stimulate demand and facilitate heavier consumption. Longer opening hours facilitate impulsive alcohol purchases. It is known that high outlet density is more common in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods, which leads to greater consumption and associated offences and secondary harms such as graffiti, obtrusive price advertisements, vulnerability to robberies, and general lower aesthetic value of the neighbourhood. These are not causal but they are associated factors.

The risks posed by outlet density will vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. For some areas, a concentration of outlets may be associated with increased consumption, higher levels of harmful drinking, or a variety of secondary harms that can undermine community wellbeing. Equally, high outlet density in other areas may have little or no effect in terms of these outcomes. The research shows that outlet density can create substantial problems for some communities but that this is highly variable for different areas.

Whether the applicant has systems, staff and training to comply with the law

Among a range of requirements on licensees, managers and bar staff, the law makes it an offence to: serve minors or intoxicated people; allow intoxication or disorderly conduct; serve customers or allow them on the premises outside of licensing hours.

This requires effective systems and staff training – firstly in identifying and understanding what the requirements are, and secondly establishing and learning effective ways of dealing with situations that could breach licence conditions and lead to an increase in alcohol related harm. Relevant considerations could be the number and experience of managers and staff as well as the amount of training provided.

Any matters reported by the Police, an inspector or the Medical Officer of Health

Based on information at their disposal, police, inspectors or the Medical Officer of Health may make suggestions about whether the licence should be issued and, if it is, what conditions should be imposed on it to mitigate any risks that are perceived.

Each agency has access to information relevant to the application which can assist in the decision making process.

While an objection is allowable in relation to matters dealt with in reports from police, inspectors or the Medical Officer of Health, there is no requirement for these reports to be made public.