If you operate a hotel in Australia, you will need a hotel licence which authorises the licensee (the hotel) to sell liquor by retail on the licensed premises. The liquor can be for consumption at the hotel, or away from the licensed premises. Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about hotel licences in New South Wales.

1. What are the Conditions Attached to Hotel Licences?

Liquor & Gaming NSW requires the premises constitute a hotel. Hotels must have the primary purpose of selling liquor by retail.  While hotels can have gaming machines (subject to separate gaming regulations), they must not detract from the hotel’s character or reduce the enjoyment of those who are not gambling. Hotels must also comply with the following conditions.

No Cash Advances

The hotelier must not advance cash or permit patrons from advancing cash in the hotel. For example, this means a guest cannot build up a tab without the means to pay it off. This rule does not, however, prevent the hotel from having cash machines on the premises (presumably because the bank, not the hotelier, provides the cash advance).

Hotels Must be Open to the General Public

Hotels cannot limit the supply of liquor to specific invitees of the club or particular classes of persons. Consequently, a club has a separate licence class since not everyone is entitled to enter.

Food Must be Made Available

The food available must be of a nature consistent with the responsible sale, supply and service of alcohol. Although the regulations do not specify what this means, minimally it should at least amount to snack food. A separate condition requires the availability of drinking water free of charge whenever the hotel serves liquor.

Prohibition on Residents/Employees Drinking Outside Trading Hours

This means no “lock-ins” for staff or people staying at the hotel. There is a separate provision for the service of liquor to hotel residents in their rooms. Another possible exception is for the hotel to apply to the Liquor & Gaming Authority for permission to set aside an area of the bar exclusively for residents outside standard hours.

Cessation of Liquor Sales

A hotelier can decide to stop serving liquor, but remain open for other activities such as conference, food or gambling with prior approval from authorities. Alternatively, they do not need permission to stop serving alcohol and stay open if they do not allow gambling.

Ongoing Requirements

The hotel also has ongoing requirements that it must follow including the need to adhere to signage and responsible service of alcohol rules.

2. What are the Trading Hours for Hotels with a Hotel Licence?

Hotels have restricted trading hours under a hotel licence:

  • Monday to Sunday: 5 am to Midnight
  • Sundays: 10 am to 10 pm.

They can extend these hours if they obtain permission from Liquor & Gaming NSW. A hotel cannot trade, or will have limited trading, in the following circumstances:

  • Good Friday or Christmas Day: The hotel cannot sell takeaway liquor.
  • Christmas day: The hotel cannot sell liquor unless the guest has an accompanying meal.
  • Good Friday: The hotel cannot sell liquor except between 12 pm and 10 pm.
  • After 10 pm: The hotel cannot sell takeaway liquor.

A hotel can obtain a licence with specific conditions and vary the hours stated above.

3. What is Involved in Making a Hotel Licence Application?

Liquor & Gaming NSW is responsible for determining applications for liquor licences, including hotel licences, in New South Wales. You can make a submission on paper or online. The general timeline for making an application is as follows.

Before Making an Application

Before making an application, you should consider whether you will require any development consent or other approval from the local council.

At Least 30 days Before Lodging Your Application

As part of the application process, Liquor & Gaming NSW will check to see if you have completed a Community Impact Statement. Hotel licence applications require a more extensive Category B Community Impact Statement.

The statement requires you to consider in great detail the potential impact of your proposed licence for your surrounding community. In particular, you will have to meaningfully consult with people and address any concerns they have.

Within Two Days of Submitting Your Application

At this part of the application process, Liquor & Gaming NSW will expect you to undertake a community consultation which involves:

  • Informing the police that you have made a request for a hotel licence;
  • Notifying the local council of your application;
  • Alerting all neighbours of the imminent application; and
  • Attaching a site notice to the premises until Liquor & Gaming NSW makes a decision about the application.

Once You Have Submitted Your Application

Your application will be available online on the liquor application noticeboard. The public will have the opportunity to comment on your application for 30 days.

Within Four Months of the Public Advertising Period Ending

You can expect to hear back from Liquor & Gaming NSW within this period regarding the success of your application.

4. How Much Does a Hotel Licence Cost?

Currently, the application fee for a hotel licence is $2,500 along with annual licence fees. The base fee is currently $510, but there are significant loadings for extended hours and potential additions for various risk factors. For example, if your trading hours conditions allow you to stay open beyond 1:30 am there will be an additional loading of $5,000, which makes the total annual fee $5,510.

5. What is a General Bar Licence?

A general bar licence is a subset of hotel licences for venues that will not provide gaming machines or sell takeaway liquor. These are subject to slightly less stringent regulations and have lower fees (for example, the application fee is currently $710 and the base annual licence fee is $255).

If the venue is not providing gaming and not selling takeaway liquor and its capacity is less than 60 patrons, then it should consider a Small Bar Licence, which is a separate licence altogether.

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It’s important that you understand the conditions which attach to your hotel licence before submitting your application to Liquor & Gaming NSW. If you have any questions or need assistance preparing your application, get in touch with our liquor licensing lawyers on 1300 544 755.

Daniel Ah-Sun

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