Liquor licensing law in Western Australia is highly regulated and complex. To make things a little clearer our team of liquor licensing lawyers, who have significant experience and expertise in the area, have answered some frequently asked questions on applying for a liquor licence in Western Australia.

In Western Australia the sale and supply of liquor is regulated by the Liquor Control Act 1988 (WA). Under the legislation any person who wants to sell and supply liquor in the state must have a liquor licence. If a licence is required under the Act, selling liquor without a licence is an offence and carries a penalty of up to $20,000.

There are a few exceptions where liquor may be sold and supplied in Western Australia without a liquor licence. However, these are extremely limited and are subject to strict criteria.

The liquor legislation sets out the requirements for applications for a new liquor licence; the criteria that must be satisfied; and the conditions which apply to each licence type. A licence will only be granted if the licensing authority decides the grant of the licence is consistent with the objectives of the legislation.

Once granted, a licence permits the specified person (the licensee) to sell and supply liquor from a specified place (the licensed premises) on the terms and conditions of the licence. Only the licensee is allowed to operate the business of a liquor licence. A licensee may be a natural person or persons; a company; a partnership or other legal entity.

The WA Act also sets down the laws relating to the operation and regulation of licensed premises, management and compliance requirements, and how licences may be dealt with.

At the end of the 2017 financial year there were 4,852 liquor licenced premises in WA.

There are ten types of permanent liquor licences available in Western Australia. These are:

  • Hotel licence.

  • Tavern licence.

  • Small bar licence.

  • Liquor store licence.

  • Restaurant licence.

  • Wholesaler’s licence.

  • Producer’s licence.

  • Nightclub licence.

  • Club licence.

  • Special Facility licence.

 

An occasional licence is also available for occasional or once-off events and functions,

 

Each licence type varies in the manner in which liquor can be sold and supplied and the hours the licence can be traded. The most appropriate licence for your business, event or function will depend on the manner in which you intend to sell and supply liquor.

 

Below is a general overview of the main features of each licence type.

 

 

Licence type

General Overview

 

Hotel

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor to the general public for consumption on the licensed premises as well as the sale of packaged liquor (being liquor in a sealed container) for consumption off the licensed premises.

  • Accommodation must be provided.

  • A hotel restricted licence is available which restricts the sale of packaged liquor to lodgers only.

 

Tavern

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor to the general public for consumption on the licensed premises as well as the sale of packaged liquor for consumption off the licensed premises.

  • A tavern restricted licence is available which restricts the sale of packaged liquor.

 

Small Bar

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor to the general public for consumption on the licensed premises.

  • Total number of patrons allowed on the licensed premises at any time is 120.

 

Liquor Store

  • Permits the sale and supply of packaged liquor to the general public for consumption off the licensed premises.

 

Restaurant

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor to a customer seated at dining table on the licensed premises, for consumption of the liquor on the licensed premises ancillary to a meal.

 

Wholesaler’s

  • Permits the sale and supply of packaged liquor for consumption off the licensed premises to any person, provided that 90% of total sales are made to liquor merchants or persons authorised by law to sell packaged liquor.

 

Producer’s

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor produced by the licensee for consumption on and off the licensed premises.

  • Liquor products not produced by the licensee may be sold and supplied by the licensee for consumption ancillary to a meal on a specified part of the licensed premises.

  • The licensee must be a genuine producer (specific requirements apply).

 

Nightclub

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor to the general public for consumption on the premises ancillary to the provision of continuous entertainment at the licensed premises (such as a live artist or DJ).

 

Special Facility

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor on the licensed premises in the manner on the terms and conditions of the licence.

  • Only available for a purpose set out in the Liquor Control Regulations and if another type of licence is not suitable.

 

Club

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor to members and their accompanying guests for consumption on the licensed premises, and the sale of packaged liquor for consumption off the licensed premises.

  • A club restricted licence is available which restricts the sale of packaged liquor.

 

Occasional

  • Permits the sale and supply of liquor at a specified event or function for a period that is no longer than 3 weeks.

  • The sale of liquor at the event or function must be ancillary to the purpose of the event.

 

Extended trading permits are also available for licensees who want to be able to trade in a manner not currently permitted under their liquor licence. For instance, in an alfresco dining area on the footpath, or extended trading hours.

To apply for a liquor licence or extended trading permit in Western Australia a formal application must be lodged at the licensing authority of Western Australia (being the Racing, Gaming and Liquor Division of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries).

In general, an application form, an application fee and supporting material, including plans of the proposed premises and submissions to address the public interest test must be lodged. The licensing authority sets out the requirements for each type of liquor licence.

Applicants for the grant of a new licence or permit are required to satisfy the licensing authority that the grant of the licence is in the public interest. In short, that the grant of the licence will satisfy the objects of the WA liquor legislation and the positive benefits of the application outweigh any negative impacts. This requires the applicant to complete a public interest assessment and lodgement of public interest submissions that address all relevant factors. This can be a complicated, time-consuming and oneous task depending upon the type of licence being applied for, the location of the proposed licensed premises and the proposed manner of trade. In general, the public interest issues that need to be considered and the extent of information needed for hotel, tavern, nightclub, liquor store and some special facility licence applications will be far more extensive and complex than those for small bar, restaurant, club, producers or wholesaler’s licence applications.

It is critical that all relevant factors and issues are properly addressed and relevant evidence lodged in the application as the stakes of not getting it right are high. If an application is refused by the licensing authority on public interest grounds, re- application for the same type of licence at the same premises is generally prohibited for a period a 3 years. In addition, while an applicant may seek review of a decision to refuse an application, the review is completed on the information and evidence that was before the original decision maker. That is, no new material may be added to address any issues that were not properly addressed originally.

 

The time to prepare and lodge an application and the time it takes for it to be determined by the licensing authority will depend on the type of licence or permit being applied for. There are three key stages: preparation, lodgement and determination.

Preparation: This involves the work required to collate the information and material required for the application, such as securing relevant documents and completing the public interest assessment (if applicable).

For complex applications such as an applications for hotel, tavern, liquor store, nightclub and some special facility liquor licences, it can take between 3 to 6 months to complete this work. Shorter time periods apply to applications of a less complex nature. For instance, an application to transfer a liquor licence can be completed very quickly if all the required information is readily available.

Lodgement: Once an application has been lodged the licensing authority will complete preliminary processing and assessment of the application. Any application for the grant of a new licence, other than an occasional licence, will require advertising. Generally may be for a period of 14 to 28 days. During the advertising period interested parties may oppose the application by lodging a notice of objection or notice of intervention.

For complex applications this stage can take any time from 2 months to 4 months to complete. Less complex applications are dealt with considerably quicker, especially if advertising is not required.

Determination: If an application is opposed, the application will then proceed to a “document exchange” stage, which provide the parties with the opportunity to lodge further evidence and legal submissions to support their case. At the completion of this stage, the application will be determined.

If an application is not advertised, or if it is advertised and not opposed, it will proceed directly to determination.

For complex applications the time from lodgement of the application to determination can range from 3 months to 12 months. Less complex applications are generally dealt with more quickly and may only take a few weeks.

The costs to apply for a liquor licence or permit will depend on the type of application to be made.

An application fee payable to the licensing authority applies to every application. The fee is set by the licensing authority on 1 January each year and varies depending on the type of application.

In addition to the application fee, other costs may include:

  • Legal and professional fees to prepare the application

  • Local authority fees (for planning approvals or certificates required for the proposed licensed premises and liquor licence application).

  • Architect and design fees (for plans and fit-out)

  • Leasing costs

An applicant must pay the costs of an application even if the application is not successful.

If you would like any more information on liquor licensing law in WA please contact our liquor licensing Principal, Susan Nicholson. You can contact us on 08 9389 3999 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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