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Dealing with disturbance complaints

Licensees have an inherent obligation to make sure any negative impact on local residents or businesses in their community is minimised.

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

Managing complaints effectively is important to building good relationships between your venue, patrons, and the community. Complaints can provide useful feedback, and help you to improve your business.

Below are some examples of things you can do to help resolve disturbance issues early. Successfully resolving issues at a local level will prevent complaints escalating to mediation or a formal process.

  • Have a dedicated staff member available to talk to residents about their complaints or disturbance concerns
  • Set up a hotline, or provide a mobile phone number for your duty manager
  • Prominently display information about the complaints process, including contact details, in your venue or on your website
  • Initiate community meetings to discuss any disturbance issues.
  • Actively participate in your local liquor accord so you can contribute to broader strategies
  • Implement techniques to deal with antisocial behaviour from patrons leaving the premises
  • Assess your venue’s building design, and identify opportunities for modification that will future-proof against residential complaints
  • Contact your local Council or revisit your development consent to make sure you’re complying with all noise conditions imposed.
  • Industry peak bodies such as ClubsNSW, AHA (NSW), and Restaurant & Catering NSW can assist licensed venues establish best-practice complaints-handling processes for their business.
  • You can also refer to the Australian/New Zealand Standard – Guidelines for complaint management in organisations (AS/NZS 10002:2014), which identifies the key features of best-practice complaints handling.

Noise, including: loud music, how patrons behave in your venue, and how they enter or leave your venue – can have a big effect on the neighbourhood and seriously damage goodwill towards your venue.

Small changes can make big differences.

  • Self-assess – observe noise levels at your venue both inside and outside, and consider what your neighbours are hearing
  • Turn down the amplified music on your PA system
  • Close the doors or windows facing residential areas
  • Conduct an acoustic test.

It’s important that residents and businesses are aware of different ways they can address disturbance issues.

Information is available to let the community know how to deal with their disturbance concerns, including letting them know that the simplest and most straightforward way to deal with a disturbance concern is to contact the venue directly.

The formal complaints process is also available to them if they can’t resolve the issue with you through direct contact.