Interventions and the liquor licensing process

Both the Commissioner of Police and the Executive Director of Public Health are authorised to intervene in proceedings before the licensing authority to introduce evidence or make representations on relevant matters.  The Commissioner is authorised to intervene as to:

  • the fitness and propriety of any person;

  • the question of whether if a particular application were granted, public disorder or disturbance would be likely to result;

  • any other matter relevant to the public interest; or

  • the interest that any person may have in a licence.

The Executive Director may intervene in relation to the harm or ill-health caused to people, or any group of people, due to the use of liquor and the minimisation of that harm or ill-health.

In addition to intervening, both may be required by the licensing authority to provide a report on relevant matters.  Further, both may elect to object to an application, in addition to/or instead of intervening. 

Both parties are increasingly intervening in applications in an attempt to either have the grant of a licence refused or, as is more commonly the case, to ensure that if a licence is granted, restrictive conditions are placed on the licence.  These interventions tend to generally focus heavily both on outlet density and crime statistics within the locality as justification for the imposition of conditions on a licence.

Outlet density relates to the number of licensed premises located within close proximity to proposed licensed premises.  It is argued in areas where there are a high number of licensed premises the likelihood of alcohol related harm occurring increases and therefore, the grant of a new licence is not in the public interest in that area.  For example, Health interventions most often state that ‘…the physical availability of alcohol, as measured by the density of licensed outlets in a defined geographical region, is associated with levels of alcohol-related harms arising within that region.  That is, higher aggregate levels of alcohol consumption and related harm occur where higher outlet densities also occur.

Interventions also rely heavily on crime data, particularly alcohol related crime data.  The existence of alcohol related offending in an area is offered as proof that licensed premises are responsible for creating public disorder and disturbance.  The addition of another licensed venue in that area is said not to be in the public interest as it will contribute to the rate of alcohol related offending.  The Police proposition is that '... in essence, crime increases during the peak periods of trade of licensed premises in Perth and an inference can be drawn that an increase in licensed  premises will have an increase in criminal offences'.  This summarises the Police argument against introducing new licensed premises where there is an existing level of alcohol related crime.

It is now commonplace for interventions to be lodged against virtually all hotel, tavern, small bar, nightclub and liquor store licence applications as well as a variety of other licensing applications such as variations, alterations and extended trading permits.

Interventions generally prolong and complicate the processing of an application.  Applicants are afforded the opportunity to respond.  The intervener may then reply.  The process can consequently add to an applicant’s costs.

A thoroughly prepared application is one which anticipates the possibility of an intervention with evidence to the contrary.  Another way to neutralise an intervention or to allay interveners’ possible concerns is to engage in consultation either before or after lodgement.

Although interventions are not necessarily fatal to an application’s prospect of success, in many cases a refusal occurs due to the impact of the intervener’s contribution.

If you require assistance in responding to an intervention or have any other liquor licensing query please do not hesitate to contact:

Dan Mossenson Ian Curlewis
Partner Partner
(08) 9288 6769  (08) 9288 6756


Jessica Patterson Alec Weston
Senior Associate Solicitor
(08) 9288 6946 (08) 9288 6873
Disclaimer – the information contained in this publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice in relation to any particular matter you may have before relying or acting on this information. The Lavan team are here to assist.