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9 December 2020

Live Music and Entertainment

Changes to NSW liquor laws support more live music and performance, arts and cultural events at licensed venues across the state.

Reforms that start on 11 December 2020 cut red tape, remove outdated conditions on live entertainment, and incentivise venues to put on live music and other arts and cultural events. This builds on the NSW Government’s efforts over recent years to support a vibrant and safe 24-hour economy and improve the way the industry is regulated.

Removal of outdated live entertainment conditions

Certain ‘live entertainment conditions’ on liquor licences will automatically stop having effect  from 11 December 2020.

This includes:



Conditions that restrict the types of genres that can be played or performed at licensed venues

  • No rock or hard rock bands are to perform in the premises.
  • No heavy metal music.
  • No disco music.
  • Live bands are to be limited to the old-time dance band on Friday night and modern type music.

Conditions restricting certain musical instruments being played

  • No drums.
  • No guitars.
  • Drum entertainment groups (for example, 'zaffa' groups) are prohibited from performing at the premises.

Conditions restricting the number of musicians or acts that may be performed

  • Soloists, duos and trios only.
  • Entertainment shall consist of a maximum of a four-member musical group which can consist of two vocalist (2) two acoustic musicians (2) and backing track.

Condition that restricts the performance of original music

  • Cover bands only.

Condition that restricts a stage/performer from facing a particular direction

  • Music to be directed in a southerly direction towards the general central area of the premises.

Condition that restricts decorations

  • The premises are not to be themed or operated as a Nightclub. No disco lighting systems are to be utilised at any time in the premises.
  • No special effect lighting systems.
  • No disco balls.

Condition that prohibits:

  • live music, entertainment, or
  • amplification of musical instrument

at all times across the entire premises

  • No live entertainment is to be provided on the premises.
  • No amplified music is to be provided on the premises.
  • The premises is not to be a place of public entertainment.
  • No live entertainment, or any form of amplified music (including through speakers) is to be provided on the premises.

Condition that prohibits or restricts a presence of a dance floor

  • No stage or dedicated dance floor in the premises.
  • No dance floor area is to be utilised at any time in the premises.

From 11 December 2020, Liquor & Gaming NSW Compliance inspectors and NSW Police will no longer monitor whether venues are complying with the above licence conditions, as they all have no effect.

Licence documents are being updated to reflect this change.

If licensees still have any of the above conditions shown on their licence from 2021 onwards, and believe that their licence has not been updated, they can send a request to Liquor & Gaming NSW to address this, visit the contact L&GNSW webpage.

Live entertainment conditions that are automatically removed cannot be imposed again on licences in future.

However, a range of alternative conditions may be used to help manage impacts from entertainment sound on the local community if needed.

Other types of licence conditions can be imposed such as:

  • limits on noise levels or emissions (e.g. LA10 noise criteria conditions), and
  • conditions to prevent excessive noise from a particular part of a premises, such as an outdoor area, or undue neighbourhood disturbance late at night.

These conditions typically will remain on liquor licences unless there is a valid reason for removal.

If a licensee believes they have a valid case for removal of other types of conditions that limit live music, they may be eligible to apply to have these conditions reviewed for free. This ensures their current circumstances can be considered, along with any relevant changes to their business model or operation over time.

A free review is available for other conditions that ban or restrict the playing or performing of live music or live entertainment, or playing of amplified music, in a part of the licensed premises and/or at particular times of the day.

For example, ‘no live music or entertainment in the beer garden after 10pm’.

The free review does not extend to conditions that have been imposed to place limits on noise levels - such as LA10 noise conditions.

Applications will be subject to community consultation and posted on the Liquor & Gaming NSW Application Noticeboard. Notice periods will be 30 days.

Relevant councils, and neighbouring residents and businesses, will have the opportunity to make a submission during this public consultation period to voice their support or raised concerns about applications that may impact them.

The free review does not extend to conditions that have been imposed to place limits on noise levels - such as LA10 noise conditions.

Licensees can apply using the Removal of liquor licence condition - live entertainment/music form - AM0122 PDF, 824.45 KB. (form will be available Friday 11 December).

Q: What happens if there are undue impacts on the local community as a result of live entertainment conditions being automatically removed?

A: Local residents and businesses are always encouraged to first discuss their concerns directly with the venue. If the venue is not responsive, they are able to use form to make a written complaint to Liquor & Gaming NSW - FM2036 PDF, 725.93 KB through a special process. Form will be available Friday 11 December.

Liquor & Gaming NSW will investigate and can readily impose alternative, contemporary conditions to manage entertainment sound if need be. Decision-makers must be satisfied that the quiet and good order of the neighbourhood is being unduly disturbed as a result of the automatic removal of conditions.

Local councils and police are also able to raise any concerns or complaints directly with Liquor & Gaming NSW.

Q: Can on-premises venues like restaurants start operating more like nightclubs or dance party venues as a result of changes to automatically remove licence conditions on dance floors, DJ booths and mirror balls?

A: No. Venues must still operate in line with their licence type under the Liquor Act 2007. They are not permitted to morph in this way.

The primary purpose of standard restaurants and cafés when operating under the on-premises licence type must always be the business of preparing and serving meals to the public, including genuine meals consumed by a person at a dining table.

Restaurants cannot start regularly pushing away all the dining tables to create a dancefloor late at night so customers can dance to DJ music, and stop serving meals. They would fail this primary purpose test. They would need to apply for a different type of licence.

Q: What happens if these types of entertainment conditions are also in development consents issued by local councils?

A: The automatic lifting of liquor licence conditions does not affect any entertainment conditions in development consents. Venues must still comply with any consent conditions unless varied or removed by their local council.

Venues can apply to their local council to have development consent conditions varied or lifted. Councils are encouraged to take a flexible approach when assessing any applications from venues to remove or vary consent conditions that are outdated or onerous.

Councils are also being given new powers from 11 December 2020 that they can consider using to remove these types of conditions proactively through a streamlined process. It is up to each council as to whether they use this process.

Q: How long will it take to consider my application for a free review of conditions?

A: Liquor & Gaming NSW aims to have applications decided within120 days of receipt. Processing times will vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the application. However, if local stakeholders raise any valid objections, processing times may be longer.

Incentives for live music and performance venues

Eligible live music and performance venues in the City of Sydney LGA can make use of a 30-minute trading extension on nights they hold or provide a live music performance or other arts and cultural event from 11 December 2020.

This extends any existing authorised liquor trading hours or ‘last drinks’ times for venues in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross precincts.

To make use of the extension on any night, eligible venues need to hold or provide a live music performance or other arts and cultural event running for at least 45 minutes after 8pm.

  • A live music performance may include an event at which one or more persons are engaged to play or perform live or pre-recorded music in person.
  • Other arts and cultural events may include arts and cultural events that primarily focus on other creative endeavours and artistic disciplines and relate to a specific cultural theme. For example, this could include other types of performance arts (e.g. theatre shows), visual arts (e.g. an art exhibition) or literary arts events.

Venues do not need to make an application to Liquor & Gaming NSW for this extra trading.

Mandatory requirements for keeping records and supporting evidence

Eligible venues that take advantage of this extension must keep records of the live music performance or other arts and cultural event held or provided on their premises on the nights that they use the 30-minute extension.

The licensee must keep these records for at least one year, and they must contain the following information for each event:

  • Date of the event
  • Type of event (either a live music performance or other arts and cultural event)
  • A brief description of the performance or event
  • Start and finish times for the event
  • Main contact details for the event organiser, including name and phone contact
  • If a live music performance, the name of the performer/s or act/s.

Venues can maintain the register in either hard-copy or digital format so long as the required information is captured. For example, in a spreadsheet or digital database, or hard-copy notebook.

Venues need to be able to show records to compliance officers or police if requested.

Venues are free to record other information if desired to prove eligibility, such as CCTV footage. This is not mandated.

A broader range of live music and performance venues across NSW will have their annual liquor licence fees reduced by 80% in 2021.

The reduction will apply to the base fee and trading hours risk loading.

A list of all venues across the State that are eligible for the reduction will be published before the next annual fee cycle in March 2021.

Q: How is eligibility for these new incentives being determined?

A: Liquor & Gaming NSW determines eligibility based on established criteria in the Liquor Regulation 2018. The official list of all eligible venues is published and maintained on this page.

For 2021, the fee reduction is being applied for most venues across NSW that either:

  • participated in the Great Southern Nights music event in November 2020 - a NSW Government initiative delivered by its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW in partnership with the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).
  • or that are a music hall, concert hall, dance hall or other space used primarily for the purpose of live music, live performances or creative or other cultural uses and are licensed under an on-premises licence for a public entertainment venue.

The 30-minute trading extensions are available to venues that meet these same criteria and that are in the City of Sydney LGA.

Liquor & Gaming NSW retains discretion to not apply the incentives for venues:

  • that have been liable for compliance history risk loading within the last 2 assessment years, or will be liable for this loading in the next assessment year,
  • karaoke bars, and
  • premises used primarily to provide adult entertainment of a sexual nature.

The NSW Government plans to refine the approach to applying the incentives after the next annual fee cycle in 2021, to ensure they are effective in incentivising more live music, arts and cultural events. This may mean there will be changes to the venues that are eligible later next year.

Q: What if I can’t use the extra 30 minutes due to my development consent conditions?

A: Venues are often subject to separate operating hour conditions on their development consents. They must continue to comply with these conditions.

Venues can only make use of the 30-minute liquor trading extension if their development consent also permits the venue to stay open during the extended time and does not require earlier closure.

If a venue wants to seek a change to their development consent conditions to make use of the trading extension, they should contact their local council.

The City of Sydney Council has established arrangements for venues in late-night trading areas that host cultural events and live performance to apply for an additional operating hour when programming music, visual or performance art or other cultural events. These may be of interest.

Q: Will I pay extra trading hour risk loading if using the 30-minute extension?

A: No. Using the extra 30 minutes will not trigger any additional trading hours risk loading beyond what is normally payable.

More information

The changes are contained in the Liquor Amendment (Night-time Economy) Act 2020.

A copy of the Act can be found on the NSW Legislation website.