Wine connoisseurs are likely familiar with the Latin phrase ‘in vino, veritas’, meaning ‘in wine, truth’. While wine is believed to have first appeared in human civilisation around 7000 years ago, we’re moving towards more modern distribution channels, including online. In the interest of providing truth to wine sellers, we discuss liquor licensing requirements below and what permits you will require if you sell wine on the Internet.
Australia’s liquor licencing regime is designed to ensure that wine and other alcoholic products are available to adult members of the community in a manner that does not negatively affect public health and safety. Of particular concern to regulators is that alcohol is not sold to minors or in an unsafe and irresponsible way.
Anyone who sells wine in Australia must have a licence, including online retailers. Although online wine retailers do not have a physical store for customers, the public health and safety issues for which governments issue permits remains relevant. For example, online wine retailers are required to notify customers on their website that they cannot supply wine to anyone under 18.
Online wine retailers must abide by all terms of their licence. The application procedure is identical to retailers with a physical business address and store. For example, applicants who want to sell online must still be eligible and prove their good character.
Liquor licensing in Australia is not nationally regulated. Rather, state and territory governments determine what licences online retailers require, prescribe the attached conditions and the application procedure.
That means that anyone wanting to sell wine online will need to obtain a state or territory liquor licence prompting additional questions such as, “if I sell wine nationally, in which state am I required to apply for and hold a licence?” and “do I need one in each state and territory?”
Determining the Correct Jurisdiction for Your Liquor Licence
If you want to sell wine online, chances are you will want to structure your business as a company. As a company, you must abide by the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) regulate this Act.
Under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), all companies must inform ASIC of the following:
- Address of their registered office and principal place of business;
- Residential address of each officeholder;
- Address of each member, if it is a proprietary company; and
- Contact address if the company has one.
The registered address and principal place of business for your company determines the state or territory in which you should apply for your liquor licence. So, a company registered in Sydney will request a licence in the state of NSW. Similarly, if your principal place of business is Perth, you will apply for a liquor licence in Western Australia.
For example, the contact address for the successful wine delivery startup Vino MoFo is in Victoria. Their permit to sell wine is Victorian. Also, their website provides the statutorily mandated warnings about not serving alcohol to minors under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (Vic). Likewise, Cellarmaster’s website notes that the business delivers wine straight from the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Their licence is South Australian and their warning about selling to minors governed by the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (SA).
This information means that if you want to trade as an online wine retailer, the first question that you have to answer is where you want to locate your principal place of business. For example, if you like warm weather and would like to set up your business in Queensland, you will need to apply for a liquor licence with the Office of Liquor and Gaming in that state.
If you require further information about which liquor licence you need and how to obtain it, the websites for the relevant state and territory government departments are a great starting point. However, if you are reaching the stage of opening your online wine cellar, you should speak with a qualified professional. Get in touch with our liquor licensing lawyers if you have any questions or need help with setting up your business.