Use space to open navigation items

Formal disturbance complaints

Licensees have certain obligations to make sure any negative impact on local residents or businesses in their community is minimised. They must also ensure that their licensed premises contributes to, and does not detract from, the comfort of the community.

You can take action against licensed premises that have a negative impact on your neighbourhood. The Secretary of the NSW Department of Industry has the authority and a range of enforcement options to deal with disturbance complaints against licensed premises.

Neighbourhood disturbances

It’s reasonable to expect some level of noise or activity from licensed venues due to people arriving and leaving, or in the general operation of the venue.

A disturbance is likely to be one two things, or both:

  1. excessive noise – from activities inside the venue or people leaving the venue
  2. anti-social behaviour from people leaving the venue – littering, damage to property, or alcohol- related violence.

Step 1. Talk with the venue

The simplest way to resolve a local disturbance is to speak with the licensee of the venue as soon as possible. Any reasonable concern raised by local residents and businesses about neighbourhood disturbances are taken seriously by a licensed venue.

When you experience a disturbance:

  • Write down the exact details of the incident – including the type of disturbance, date and time – as soon as possible after the disturbance.
  • Include any actions you took at the time if any, for example, if you contacted the venue or police.
  • Call the venue about your concerns as soon as possible after the incident.
  • Arrange to meet with the licensee or venue manager to discuss your concerns and find a solution if you can’t resolve them by speaking over the phone.
  • Be clear about what an acceptable solution might be, but be open minded about other options the venue may offer that could achieve the same result.
  • If more than one licensed venue is involved, provide them all with the same information and let them know who else you’ve raised the issue with.

The best thing about approaching venues directly is that it allows them to use your feedback to improve what they do. It also encourages them to deal with issues quickly, and this can improve relationships between locals and the venue.

Step 2. Seek assistance

You can ask for advice from someone who can help mediate and find a solution that works for you and the venue. This works best when:

  • you don’t feel comfortable raising your concern with the venue
  • you have raised your concern with the venue but haven’t been able to come to a solution

Contact our Compliance Operations Unit 

We are able to provide assistance with disturbance concerns in limited circumstances. If a venue does not have noise restriction conditions on their liquor licence, your local council or NSW Police would likely be more effective in addressing your concerns.

Raise a general disturbance concern through our our online feedback form or call 1300 024 720.

Contact your local police 

Police may also be able to provide advice and assist in resolving general disturbance concerns. A local licensing officer would have a working relationship with all licensed venues in your area and may suggest an appropriate resolution to general disturbance concerns.

Contact your local council 

Often licensed venues have noise control measures as part of their development consent. You can ask your local council about these.

Step 3. Lodge a formal disturbance complaint

You can lodge a formal complaint, free of charge, with the Secretary, NSW Department of Industry, via L&GNSW if Step 1 or Step 2 was not successful.

Tips: 

  • We strongly encourage that you include your personal details so we’re able to follow up with you, however you are able to withold your details if you are not comfortable providing them.

  • You will not be required to attend court once you’ve lodged a complaint as they’re dealt with in an administrative-based process.
  • You are able to make a disturbance complaint about a venue before you bought a house nearby. The Secretary will consider order of occupancy issues when dealing with the complaint under provisions of the liquor laws.
  • You are able to make a complaint about multiple venues in the one submission if you believe they are contributing to the problem like patrons moving between venues late at night.

Who can make a formal disturbance complaint?

  1. Three or more local residents working together, or a third party authorised by three or more local residents
  2. Police
  3. A local council
  4. A person who satisfies the Secretary that the licensed premises is affecting their business interests – financial or otherwise.

After receiving a formal complaint, the Secretary considers the best way to deal with the issue. This could include:

  • encouraging you and the licensee to resolve the issues between yourselves
  • mediation between you and the licensee
  • seeking voluntary actions by the licensee
  • using legal powers to impose conditions on the licence
  • using legal powers to issue directions to the licensee or staff
  • dealing with the complaint based on your evidence and submissions from the licensee
  • arranging a meeting to get more information from you and giving the licensee a chance to respond.

Others, such as police and local council representatives, may also provide information, give their view, and offer advice on how to deal with the issue.

The Secretary gives all parties a fair chance to voice their opinion. We always observe the principles of natural justice and due process. The Secretary decides if your neighbourhood is being unfairly disturbed.

The Secretary can use different legal tools to resolve a disturbance complaint. This can lead to a range of outcomes, which are adapted to the particular circumstances of the complaint.

Where we reach a conclusion under the disturbance complaint rules of the Liquor Act, the Secretary can:

  • impose a condition on the liquor licence
  • vary or revoke an existing condition on the liquor licensee
  • adjourn a complaint conference so the licensee can solve the issue
  • give the licensee a warning
  • take no further action.

The types of conditions we can impose on a liquor licence include:

  • noise emission restrictions
  • trading restrictions including lockouts or curfews
  • restrictions on the sale and supply of liquor
  • putting security, or additional patrols, in and around a licensed venue
  • insisting that a licensee join a local liquor accord.

Issues considered

The Secretary will take a range of information into account before making a decision, including:

  • Information from police, the local council, residents, and the licensee helps to reveal the level of disturbance and what's necessary to deal with it
  • The order of occupancy between you and the licensed premises – i.e. who was there first? However, order of occupancy rules don't apply to complaints made by police or a local council.
  • Any changes, including structural changes, that you or the licensed venue operators have made to your respective properties.
  • Any changes in activities at the licensed premises over time, such as its pattern of trading hours.

Timeframe to resolving the complaint

There is no set time. It depends on how many issues and people are involved in the complaint. The legal options available to the Secretary means we can take action quickly, if it's necessary.

Review of the decision

Yes. Depending on how the Secretary resolves a complaint, you can request a review by the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority Board (ILGA).

Make a formal complaint:

  1. Complete the form: Disturbance complaint (PDF 826.5 KB)
  2. The form will need to be endorsed by three or more local residents
  3. The complaint must be supported by a statutory declaration.

Lodge your complaint:

Post: Compliance Branch | Liquor & Gaming NSW | GPO Box 7060 | Sydney NSW 2001
In person: L&GNSW | Level 6, 323 Castlereagh St | Haymarket NSW 2000
E: safe.premises@liquorandgaming.nsw.gov.au