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News
29 November 2019

NSW Government announces major liquor law reforms

On 28 November 2019 the NSW Government announced it will implement certain key recommendations from the Joint Select Committee’s report on Sydney’s night time economy, including a range of reforms to NSW’s liquor laws.

The liquor law reforms will be implemented in stages to allow time for consultation where necessary.

Initial liquor law reforms are planned to come into effect on 14 January 2020 and include the following changes:

Lockouts and last drinks

  • Lockouts removed enabling venues to admit patrons beyond 1:30am.
  • Last drinks time extended from 3am to 3.30am for most venues.
  • Venues classified as Level 1 on the violent venues list continue to maintain a 1.30am lockout and 3am last drinks time.

Drink restrictions

  • Post-midnight restrictions on the sale of certain drinks to be removed. Venues able to serve neat spirits, custom cocktails, stronger ready to drink beverages and shots.
  • Existing drink service limits to be maintained. No more than four alcoholic drinks or one bottle of wine to be sold or supplied to a patron at any one time between midnight to 2am, and this decreases to two alcoholic drinks per patron between 2am and 7am or close (whichever is earlier)^.

^If the last drinks restriction applies, then no alcohol may be sold or supplied between 3:30am and 5am.

Lockouts and last drinks

  • 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks maintained in the Kings Cross precinct.
  • 2am lockouts and 3.30am last drinks maintained for venues in the Kings Cross precinct with an approved live entertainment exemption.

ID scanners

  • Mandatory ID scanners maintained, but hours of operation to be relaxed with venues only required to operate ID scanners from 10pm until lockout on Friday and Saturday nights (and on any public holiday night or night before a public holiday).

Drink restrictions

  • All existing drink restrictions maintained.
  • Takeaway alcohol sales for certain licensed premises to be extended from 11pm to midnight on Monday through to Saturday, and from 10pm to 11pm on most Sundays.
  • Not all takeaway alcohol businesses will be able to trade until these new times as local development consent and trading hour conditions may restrict operating hours for individual businesses.
  • The extension is planned to be reviewed after 12 months to consider any impacts.
  • The maximum patron capacity for small bars, and for micro-breweries and small distilleries operating under a special drink on-premises authorisation, is to be increased from 100 to 120 patrons# across the state.
  • Certain licensees will be able to convert on-premises and hotel (general bar) licences to a small bar licence through a free, streamlined process until 28 February 2021.

#Before increasing their patron capacity, it is recommended that licensees check their development approval (DA) to confirm that it allows their venue to hold 120 patrons. If the patron capacity set out on their DA is lower than 120 persons, licensees will need to contact their local council to vary their DA.

  • Established producer/wholesaler licensees in the precincts will no longer be subject to the liquor licence freeze.
  • This means licensed producers selling liquor for consumption on their premises can now obtain approval to expand their boundaries. This change is consistent with previous relaxations which allowed new producers/wholesalers to establish in the precincts.
  • The current freeze in the Sydney CBD Entertainment precinct will expire on 1 June 2020, with alternative approaches to managing risks associated with the density of licensed premises examined ahead of the expiry.

Note: All licensees are advised to refer to the conditions imposed on their liquor licence and DA before implementing any of the reforms outlined above.  Licensees must, at all times, adhere to the most restrictive requirements imposed on their venue.

Other liquor law reforms

The remaining liquor law reforms that have been announced as part of the NSW Government’s response will require more significant changes to NSW liquor laws, including amendments to the Liquor Act 2007.

The reforms include:

  • Implementing a single, integrated incentives and sanctions system to reward well managed venues and sanction venues that breach liquor laws or have a poor safety record.
  • Aligning liquor licensing and planning processes to allow a range of businesses to open or change their business models more easily.
  • Implementing a more sophisticated approach to assessing and managing risks associated with the density of licensed premises and late trading.
  • Enabling family-oriented functions and more diverse small business services in small bars in certain circumstances, including where minors may be present.
  • Making other minor and procedural amendments to remove unnecessary red tape, remove regulatory overlap and improve regulatory oversight.

Additional time is required to consult with stakeholders on proposed changes to the laws before these reforms can be implemented. Alongside this, further consultation will also occur on a final proposed framework to regulate same day delivery of alcohol to support businesses with this emerging model to operate in a responsible way.

More information

If you have any questions about how the liquor law reforms affect your liquor licence, please contact us on 1300 024 720.

View the NSW Government’s full response to the Committee’s recommendations here.