The Director of Liquor Licensing has recently published a decision refusing the grant of a special facility licence for a reception/function centre in Northbridge on the basis that the Director was not satisfied the grant was in the public interest.
In considering the public interest, the Director placed a heavy reliance on the harm or ill-health and offence aspects of public interest imposed by s38(a) and (c) of the Liquor Control Act.
Based on information supplied by the Executive Director of Public Health and the Police, the Director found that if the application was granted, harm or ill-health or offence, annoyance, disturbance or inconvenience might be caused to people residing in or resorting to Northbridge. The Director decided that because there is already a significant level of alcohol-related harm in Northbridge, even a small risk in the increase of that level of harm was unacceptable.
Interestingly, the Director also placed considerable emphasis on the lack of evidence showing demand or requirement of consumers in relation to the function centre. Whilst the specific ‘needs’ or ‘requirement’ test was removed from the liquor licensing legislation in 2007, it should be noted that consumer requirement is still referred to in the objects of the Act. The licensing authority must have regard to the objects when determining an application.
It appears from this decision that the licensing authority may be starting to take a 'hard line' with respect to liquor licensing applications in Northbridge, with possibly the same approach to follow in other areas experiencing higher than normal levels of alcohol related harm.
It is important that applicants for new licences in high risk areas, or even existing licensee applicants for variations/alterations in high risk areas, comprehensively address all aspects of the public interest test in their application and include some cogent evidence of consumer requirements. Should an applicant be unsuccessful, it should be noted that if the application is taken on review, the Liquor Commission may only have regard to the material which was before the Director when making the decision.
An application for review of the above decision has apparently been lodged with the Liquor Commission.
If you have any queries regarding this snapshot or other aspects of liquor licensing please contact Ian Curlewis (9288 6756 / firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dominique Hartfield (9288 6940 / email@example.com).