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Warm weather and fine wine . . . A perfect combination.   If you are considering setting up a small bar in Brisbane, but do not know where to start, this article will set out the key steps in setting up a bar that meets Queensland regulations.

Step 1: Be Specific About the Detail

Any big dream requires lots of little steps. That includes setting up a bar in Brisbane. To help smooth your path and hone your compass, you need to be clear at the outset what you would like. Do you want a water view?  If so, you need to look at areas near the water. How many patrons are you thinking of serving at any one time?  The answer to that question will guide your application for a Liquor Licence.  Asking yourself these kinds of detailed questions at the start of the process will help you to arrive at your destination.

Step 2: Find your Location

Now that you have a vision, you need to find your ideal spot. Take a stroll around the city; see which area fits with your dream. When you have found it, you will need to make contact with the property agent. While it may be tempting to lock in your preferred location, do not sign any contracts at this point. Whether you plan to lease or purchase, it is still too early in the process. Without analysing the zoning regulations in the area, applying for planning approval or obtaining a Liquor Licence, committing to a contract is financially risky.

However, take your contract to a legal professional. Ask them to read it and explain it to you.  Discuss the pros and cons. Ask all the questions you have. Do not underestimate the importance of such a conversation. Assuming nothing is a sound and fiscally responsible approach.  

Once you have found your ideal location, you need to know the essential facts about that property. Luckily, the Brisbane City Council has made this task relatively easy. They have made an interactive map of the Brisbane City Plan 2014 accessible on their website. The map enables you search a particular location and discover the applicable zoning guidelines.  Zoning Guidelines will tell you if you can have a bar in that area. You can also access the Neighbourhood Plan relevant to those premises and if any overlays exist on the property. An overlay is a unique characteristic of any property. For example, it may be a local feature that the Council wishes to protect. This information is invaluable because it will help you to know with what level of assessment the Council will assess your application and if there are any specific design requirements for your plans.

If you have trouble using the interactive plan, the Council provides a fact sheet on their website. Alternatively, contact Council. Once you have done this, you need to read the City Plan or ePlan. It is only accessible electronically on the Council website. It will clarify what parts of the planning scheme apply to your project. It will also tell you what information you need to include in your development application.  

Step 3: Lodge the Applications

You are now ready to prepare and submit your applications. While every application will vary, broadly speaking you will need to apply for:

  • Development Application to Brisbane City Council; and
  • Liquor Licence to the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.

Development Application

Your application is likely to require a development application. Always check with Council. The application will need to detail the kind of bar you are proposing, its exact location and the inherent characteristics of the site. If you are unsure if you need an application, you can complete a property development enquiry online to find out if approval is necessary. Check the Council’s website.

Depending on the complexity of your plans, your application could include all or some of the following documents:

  1. Application Forms;
  2. Fee Assessment Form;
  3. Plans and Drawings;
  4. Planning Report; and
  5. Any required supporting reports.

Liquor Licence

A small bar is likely to need a Bar Licence. This licence constitutes a Commercial Other Licence.

To qualify for this licence, selling liquor for on-premises consumption must be the primary function of your business.  Your premises will not be able to seat more than sixty (60) patrons.

An application will cost $1297.00. If you obtain it, you will also need to pay an annual licence fee. While there is a base cost, the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation may increase your fee based on risk factors including trading hours and compliance history. The application itself is lengthy and includes several documents. Consult the website for the Office of Liquor and Gaming carefully. If necessary, contact them.

To be eligible for a Liquor Licence, you will need business premises that do not seat more than 60. You will also need to show that you are a Fit and Proper Person to hold a Licence. Some applicants must demonstrate that the premises have an approved manager. An applicant might also have to undertake training in the Responsible Management of Licensed Venues. Once you have a Licence, you can apply to extend or alter your licence. For example, to extend your trading hours.

Assuming your applications are approved, you are now able to start realising your dream. Of course, being an employer requires you be aware of all your workplace responsibilities. These responsibilities include matters of employee remuneration, superannuation and maintaining a safe work environment. The website for the FairWork Ombudsman is an excellent resource in this regard.

Contact LegalVision’s Brisbane lawyers to assist you with setting up your small bar. Questions? Call us on 1300 544 755.


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