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It is a common dream to open up a bar in New Zealand and make your business the go-to destination in the region. While it is a competitive market and there are plenty of excellent wine bars in Aotearoa already, there is always scope for new entrants who offer something different. First, however, you should note the range of legal requirements before opening a wine bar. Liquor licencing laws, particularly in New Zealand, are tightly monitored. 

This article sets out some key legal considerations if you are looking to open a wine bar in New Zealand, including:

  • obtaining an alcohol on-licence; 
  • your public notice requirements; and 
  • the legalities of organising your bar’s premises. 

Obtain an Alcohol On-Licence

In New Zealand, you need an alcohol on-licence to sell or supply alcohol if your customers consume alcohol on your business premises. Clearly, this is an essential feature for wine bars! There are many different requirements to obtain this kind of alcohol licence, and you should acquaint yourself with the process as it can sometimes take a reasonable period of time.

Firstly, there are sometimes restrictions on certain areas allowing businesses to sell alcohol. Restrictions can be due to all kinds of reasons, and it depends on your local authority. In Auckland, for instance, the local authority is Auckland Council. Hence, you should call your local authority to check if any restrictions are in place in the first instance. You can reach Auckland Council’s alcohol planning helpdesk on 09 301 0101.

If businesses can sell alcohol in the area you are planning to open your wine bar, the next step is to apply for an alcohol-on licence. You will need to include several different documents as part of this application. Therefore, getting these together in advance can save you a lot of time. As part of your application, you will need to provide a copy (or copies) of:

  • your planning and building certificates;
  • the bar menu;
  • your host responsibility policy and an alcohol management plan;
  • a photo of the main entrance;
  • the floor plans highlighting restricted or supervised areas and the main entrance; and
  • your Certificate of Incorporation if you are forming your business as a company.

Public Notice and Other Obligations

As part of the alcohol on-licence process and opening a new wine bar, you will need to engage with the public to some extent to get your new business authorised. This can include several steps depending on the public response.

As a first step, you will need to notify the public of your alcohol licence application when applying. You can get advice from your local authority about how to do this effectively in your region. The public then gets a chance to see your notice, and they can object if they have some kind of issue with your application. New Zealand Police and the local health service, such as the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, will also review your application.

If any of those parties (the public, the police, or public health service) oppose your application, there will be further processes to engage with the relevant group and resolve the objection or issue. This may involve a public hearing if the public is objecting to your new wine bar. Your local licencing committee, which oversees the alcohol on-licence process, will let you know if this is the case. 

Leasing Your Wine Bar Premises

You should also consider how you want to organise your actual premises. Most new businesses will not have the capital upfront to purchase their new premises. For that reason, you will want to consider leasing a commercial space to begin with. Securing these new leases can sometimes be tricky, and you should be careful about the details of your leasing contract. 

For a wine bar, in particular, establishing that you can run your business on the premises without issue is vital – getting a property or commercial lawyer involved to double-check the drafting of your lease can be worthwhile.

Key Takeaways

While opening a new bar in New Zealand is an exciting prospect, you should be aware of certain legal hurdles and regulatory requirements. You will need an alcohol on-licence to open a wine bar. This process can be quite lengthy, and you will need to provide documentation such as your host responsibility and alcohol management plan. Additionally, you need to notify the public before opening up shop. Thinking about how to lease your wine bar premises is also important. Ensure that the contract fits your bar’s needs when it opens on the premises.

If you would like more information about opening a new bar, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of liquor licence do you need to open a wine bar in New Zealand?

You will need an alcohol on-licence to sell or supply alcohol on your business’ premises. This means that all bars will need an alcohol on-licence.

What do you need to obtain an alcohol on-licence?

You will need to provide a range of documents as part of the process, including copies of your planning and building certificates, a copy of the bar menu, a copy of your host responsibility policy and an alcohol management plan, a photo of the main entrance, a copy of the floor plans highlighting restricted or supervised areas and the main entrance, and a copy of your Certificate of Incorporation.

Do you need to notify the public if you are seeking an alcohol on-licence?

Yes, this is part of the application process.

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