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In NSW, the Liquor Act 2007 (the Act) and related regulations govern the sale of liquor. Section 7 states that “a person must not sell liquor unless the person is authorised to do so by a licence.” A breach of the Act can result in a fine or imprisonment (currently up to $11,000 or 12 months or both). There are seven types of licences available, and each provides the right to sell or supply liquor in different situations conditionally. If you intend to sell liquor, it is important you understand which licence you need and if there are any restrictions attached.

Hotel Licence

A hotel licence allows you to sell liquor for consumption on and off the premises and is suitable for accommodation hotels as well as small and large bars. In NSW, the application cost is $2,500 as well as any annual liquor licensing fees. There are two types of licences:

  • Full hotel liquor licence; and
  • General bar licence.

A general bar licence is more restrictive in that you can’t operate gaming machines or sell takeaway alcohol. Licensees can operate gaming machines under a full hotel liquor licence but will first require approval.

Club Licence

A club licence allows the sale of liquor to a member of a club or their guest on and off the premises. You must satisfy the requirements of the Registered Clubs Act 1976 (NSW) to be considered a club. Notably, a club cannot have a financial interest in a hotel if it wants to hold a club liquor licence. 

Small Bar Licence

A small bar is one which has a capacity for 60 or fewer patrons and is open to the general public (that is, they cannot be invitation only bars). Under a small bar licence, you cannot sell takeaway alcohol or allow gambling. Standard trading hours are between midday and 2 am, Monday to Sunday however, these can vary depending on location and any restrictions. 

On-Premises Licence

If your primary business is not selling liquor (for example, a public entertainment venue), you will need an on-premises liquor licence. You will also need this licence to sell liquor if the premises forms part of an airport or a university. The venue must make available at all times food consistent with the responsible sale, supply and service of alcohol as well as free drinking water. Patrons must consume the alcohol on the premises.

Packaged Liquor Licence

Under a packaged liquor licence, you can sell sealed, packaged liquor for consumption away from the premises (for example, a bottle shop). It also permits the sale of liquor by wholesale to those who are themselves authorised to sell liquor (but see producer/wholesaler licence below too).

You can offer a “small amount” for tasting, but not so much that this in itself becomes the attraction. So, allowing people to sample a new beer before buying is crate is likely permissible, charging for a full evening of wine tasting would not be. You must also separate areas for the sale of liquor from non-liquor sales areas. This condition explains why Coles doesn’t sell liquor alongside soft drinks but instead has a nearby outlet for alcohol. Further, a licence must not be granted to a small general store if there is already a bottle shop nearby. Takeaway food shops are also barred from obtaining a packaged liquor licence. It is worth noting that this is also the licence you require if you intend to sell alcohol online.

Producer/Wholesaler Licence

You will require a producer/wholesaler licence if you are selling packaged liquor, but not to the public (i.e. you primary activity is the wholesale sale of liquor). If you are a producer (e.g., a brewery or wine estate), you can also sell to the public from your premises or industry shows for consumption elsewhere – but this must not become your primary purpose. You would likely breach your licence if you derived the majority of your income from non-wholesale activities.

Limited Licence

As the name suggests, you a have a limited licence to sell liquor as an ancillary activity to holding functions and is typically limited to non-proprietary association or trade fairs. Other conditions imposed on these licences include:

  • How many days a year you can sell alcohol;
  • Opening the can/bottle/container before sale; and
  • Notifying the police 14 days in advance of where you intend to sell the liquor.

The Act includes special rules regarding surf life-saving clubs who hold this licence. Importantly, if authorities believe you should apply for another more suitable licence, you will be obliged to comply. 

Key Takeaways 

While we have summarised the type of licences you can obtain to sell liquor in NSW and the general conditions which attach, you should still keep in mind these additional points:

  • If you are going to have a physical presence (e.g., a shop) you are likely to submit a development application with your local council along with a liquor licence application. 
  • Submitting an application involves paying the requisite fees and filing a community impact assessment. 
  • You may need to appoint at least one individual as a licensee or manager who holds an additional permit (for example, a responsible service of alcohol qualification).
  • Ongoing monitoring of adherence to licence conditions is strict, and you must know all the restrictions and requirements as they apply to your licence. 

Don’t be deterred by the compliance obligations – plenty of businesses have successfully applied for a liquor licence. If you have any questions or need assistance navigating through the process, get in touch with our specialist liquor licence lawyers on 1300 544 755. 


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