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If you want to sell alcohol in New Zealand, you need to have a liquor licence. There are four kinds of liquor licences, which vary according to how you sell alcohol. These are:

  • an on-licence, for selling alcohol customers will consume on the premises;
  • an off-licence, to sell alcohol customers will buy and consume off the premises;
  • a club licence, for regularly selling alcohol to members of a community club; and
  • a special licence for selling alcohol at a one-off event, such as a wedding.

Your local council’s district licensing committee (DLC) will consider your application based on your suitability as an applicant. This article will provide four legal tips for getting a liquor licence in New Zealand.

1. Prepare Your Application Effectively

When you apply for a liquor licence, you need to provide the necessary information for the respective licence you want. You can do this with proper documentation, proving your case for your local DLC to consider. For an on-licence, you need to provide information that shows the following:

  • that you have the necessary industry experience and knowledge to be a suitable applicant;
  • the days and hours you intend to sell alcohol;
  • the layout and design of your bar or similar, such as details of seating, access, and ventilation;
  • your impact on the local community, and how you will mitigate any negative factors;
  • that you have adequately trained your staff; and
  • that you have appropriate health and safety systems in place.

If you want an off-licence, there are similar considerations. Your application should also include whether you offer any non-alcohol related services and your trading times. Your local council will likely have its own alcohol policies as well, which you need to prove you will comply with. Check their website for their liquor licence information. Local alcohol policies may include:

  • limiting locations where you can sell alcohol;
  • extensions or restrictions on trading hours; or
  • one-way door policies.

For example, for off-licences, the usual maximum trading hours are between 7 am and 11 pm. However, your local council may have different rules.

To have a successful application, you need to do your research and prepare everything you need. If you miss out on any essential information or do not explain something appropriately, this can harm your chances of your DLC approving you. Seek legal advice if you are applying for your licence for the first time or have a complicated application.

2. Consider Your Locality

When your local DLC considers your application, they compare it against the existing law that regulates the sale of alcohol. In particular, they consider your suitability as an applicant and how much of an impact your licence will have on your local community’s ‘amenity and good order’. Essentially, this means looking at how your business will impact how pleasant and agreeable your area is. The committee will consider the potential levels of:

  • loud and excessive noise;
  • vandalism; and
  • drunk and disorderly conduct.

Some councils have rules around where you can operate your licence. For example, some do not allow licensed premises within 100m of a house of worship or a school. Even if a council does not have this specific rule, your chances of getting a licence will be lower if you operate near minors.

Therefore, if you have flexibility as to where you will operate, you need to consider your surroundings. Are there already many licensed alcohol premises in the area? Are there any schools nearby? If there are, you will need to detail factors that will mitigate the negative impacts your alcohol business will have on the community’s good order.

3. Ensure You Adequately Train Your Staff

The committee will consider your suitability personally as an applicant and the experience of your staff. You need to ensure your staff have the proper training to sell alcohol, and the proper certification, such as a duty manager’s certificate. They need to be able to sell alcohol according to the law. 

For example, any evidence of you or your staff having issues complying with the law in the past will negatively impact your application. This applies to other laws as well. If you overwork your staff and do not meet your requirements as an employer, this may affect your application.

4. Apply for Your Licence With Plenty of Time

Licence applications can take a long time, depending on the kind you apply for. There may be issues with your application, and if there are any community objections, this will extend the process. Therefore, if you need your licence before a specific date, ensure you apply with plenty of time to spare. You need to apply for a special licence at least 20 working days before the event unless there are special circumstances, such as a sudden funeral. For other licences, the process can take up to 50 working days to complete.

Key Takeaways

Getting a liquor licence can be a lengthy and involved process. Ensure that you apply with plenty of time, with the appropriate documentation. If there is anything that can harm your chances, find ways to mitigate those negatives if possible. If you would like more information or help with applying for your liquor licence, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do I need a liquor licence?

If you sell alcohol in New Zealand, then you need to have a liquor licence. The kind of licence you get will depend on how you sell alcohol and where customers will consume it.

How can I apply for a liquor licence?

You can apply for a liquor licence through your local council. The council will usually outline this process on their website.

Does a liquor licence cost money?

When you apply for a liquor licence, you need to prepare various documents proving your suitability and providing information about your proposed operation. This includes paying licensing fees.

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