The highly anticipated Liquor Control Amendment Bill 2018 was presented to Parliament on 20 February 2018, and passed the lower house on 10 April 2018. In keeping with his election commitment, Premier Mark McGowan introduced a range of improvements in the way liquor outlets around the state are controlled.  There are a number of key changes proposed which impact on liquor stores, in particular the larger liquor barns. As a result, the amendments seek to impose a number of restrictions on larger retailers intended to set up new operations.

Under the proposed changes, there will be a prohibition on granting, removing, altering or redefining packaged liquor premises in certain circumstances. The Act will prohibit the application for the grant of a new packaged liquor outlet or for the removal or alteration of an existing packaged liquor facility where:

  • The proposed or existing retail display area is over a ‘prescribed area’, which is expected to be over 400sqm (Prescribed Area); and
  • The retail display area of an existing packaged liquor outlet is over the Prescribed Area (Existing Large Outlet); and
  • The proposed packaged liquor outlet is situated less than the ‘prescribed distance’ from an Existing Large Outlet (expected to be 5km in the metropolitan area).

The explanatory memorandum for the Amendment Bill outlines the intended purpose of the change:

“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.”

Another important change for liquor stores will be the changes for new applications. Currently for all applications are required to satisfy the Licensing Authority that the grant of the application is in the public interest. The public interest test requires applicants to demonstrate that the proposed licence will cater for the requirements of consumers for liquor and related services, with regard to the proper development of the liquor industry, the tourism industry and other hospitality industries in the State. The proposed new needs test will require applicants to prove that “… local packaged liquor requirements cannot reasonably be met by existing packaged liquor premises in the locality in which the proposed licensed premises are, or are to be, situated.”

If the new needs test comes into effect, applicants seeking the grant and removal of a liquor store licence will be required to satisfy not only the new needs test but also the existing public interest test. It is unclear as to how the needs test will apply and work with the public interest test but it will add another hurdle for applicants.

Ultimately, the proposed changes represent a win for existing small packaged liquor retailers, as it will curtail future expansion from the major liquor barns and the redefinition of existing hotel licences to create large packaged liquor outlets.

Importantly, these changes are not yet law and still need to be passed by the upper house of Parliament.

Ryan & Durey Solicitors are one of WA’s leading liquor licensing law firms who provide expert advice in all forms of licensing.  If you are require advice on how the new liquor reforms might affect you, please contact Jarrod Ryan (jarrod@ryandurey.com), Alyce Cassettai (alyce@ryandurey.com) or Don Harley (don@ryandurey.com).