The highly anticipated amendments to the Liquor Control Act finally came into force on 2 November 2019.

The latest amendments impact on applications seeking the sale of packaged liquor, in particular liquor stores, as well as unrestricted hotel and tavern licences and some special facility licences.

There is now a prohibition on granting, removing, altering or redefining packaged liquor premises where:

  • packaged liquor premises are situated less than the prescribed distance from the proposed licensed premises (which has been set at 5 kilometres in the metropolitan region and 12 kilometres for all other packaged liquor premises); and
  • the area of the retail section of those packaged liquor premises exceeds the prescribed area (which has been set at 400m²); and
  • the area of the retail section of the proposed licensed exceeds the prescribed area (again set at 400m²).

The result being that a ‘large’ liquor store (over 400m²) cannot open within 5 kilometres of an existing ‘large’ liquor store (that is also 400m²) in the Perth Metropolitan area.

The explanatory memorandum for the Amendment Bill outlined the intended purpose of the change as follows:

“As a strategy to minimise the adverse impact that packaged liquor outlets can have on the community, the Bill inserts new section 36B to enable the licensing authority to manage the number of packaged liquor outlets where sufficient outlets already exist within a locality. This will be complemented by additional amendments relating to large packaged liquor outlets being established in close proximity to an existing large packaged liquor outlet.”

In addition to the above prohibition, applying for packaged liquor sales has also gotten harder with the amendments now requiring applicants to satisfy the Licensing Authority that the local packaged liquor requirements cannot reasonably be met by existing packaged liquor outlets in the locality. It means that not only must the application be in the public interest, but the applicant must also demonstrate a ‘need’ for another packaged liquor outlet in the locality. This represents a significant win for existing retailers, as its likely to curtail the introduction and expansion on new liquor outlets.

Packaged liquor sales has been dominated by the larger warehouse style liquor outlets, many of which are owned and operated by the supermarket chains. This has created difficulty for existing small packaged liquor outlets, who struggle to compete with the buying power and resources of the larger stores. The changes seek to protect existing liquor stores with applicants now required to satisfy the licensing authority that consumer needs are not being met by existing packaged liquor stores.

Existing outlets need to be careful if they are seeking to undertake alterations or redefine their licensed area, as if they expand beyond the 400m² retail area, they could face problems.

Ryan & Durey Solicitors is one of WA’s leading liquor licensing law firms. If you are looking at applying for a licence, altering an existing licence or seeking advice on how the new liquor laws might affect you, please contact Jarrod Ryan (jarrod@ryandurey.com) or Alyce Cassettai (alyce@ryandurey.com).