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Are you aspiring to start your own business? The success of your business will come down to how prepared you are before opening your doors. Therefore, it is vital that you do all the background research needed so that you are not caught out by any surprises. One type of business that you may think about starting is a liquor store. You may feel that the alcohol industry is only going to grow, and you might think that you have what it takes to run a successful liquor store. However, you must be aware of all the legal requirements of opening a liquor store. This article outlines three legal considerations you should think about before opening a liquor store in New Zealand.

Alcohol Licencing

The main issue you will run into when opening a liquor store is trying to get your alcohol licence. Because a liquor store is selling alcohol for consumption outside of the premises, your store will be considered an off-licence.


The process for applying for an alcohol licence is rigorous and can take a significant amount of time. The steps are and potential barriers are outlined below.

1. Check with your council

The first step is to check with your local council to ensure no bylaws may affect your application for an alcohol licence. For example, in certain parts of Auckland, a liquor licencing trust operates all the liquor stores in that area. You can then apply to your local council for a liquor licence. It is important that you apply well before opening your store, as liquor licencing applications can take months.

2. Community objections

Once you apply for a licence, there is a chance for members of your community to object to the licence if they feel that it would negatively impact the community. For example, they might object to it if there is a school nearby. 

3. Hearing

The licencing committee may decide to invite you to a hearing to make sure that you are responsible enough to get a liquor licence. Anyone who objects to your licence will also be invited to the hearing to make their case as to why you should be denied your liquor licence. You must prepare well for your hearing, don’t be afraid to seek professional advice if you need it.

4. Application Outcome

The committee will then decide to either approve or reject your application. If they deny your application, then there may be grounds to appeal the decision.


There are certain days during the year where you are not allowed to sell liquor. These restrictions were originally based on religious custom but are now ingrained in our culture.

These restrictions are that you are not allowed to serve alcohol on:

  • Good Friday:
  • Christmas Day; and
  • before 1 pm on ANZAC Day.

If you do break these restrictions, you could be liable for fines. 

Advertising Guidelines 

There are also advertising guidelines concerning marketing for alcohol. In New Zealand, the Advertising Standards Authority is responsible for restricting the advertisement of alcohol. These standards apply to all drinks that have more than 1.15% abv of alcohol. Standards that alcohol advertisers must follow include that you:

  • must not advertise alcohol on television between 6.00 am-8.00 pm;
  • can advertise alcohol in age-related media, such as websites that ask for the consumer’s date of birth;
  • cannot encourage the excessive consumption of alcohol;
  • cannot advertise a discount of more than 25%; and
  • cannot giveaway alcohol for buying a certain amount, and you cannot give away free alcohol.

Key Takeaways

When opening a liquor store in New Zealand, you must prepare yourself well by thinking about key legal considerations. This is so that your business has the best chance of success and so you are not seen as breaking any laws or regulations. You should also think about how you will structure your business and how many employees you will hire. However, the most important things that you should be aware of are:

  • liquor licencing;
  • restrictions; and
  • advertising guidelines.

If you need any legal assistance with the business structures, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I appeal a rejected application?

Yes, you can, but it is best to change something in your appeal so that you do not end up with the same result.

What happens if I break advertisement guidelines?

You could be liable for a fine, or your alcohol licence could be revoked. 

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