The small bar concept

The small bar concept was introduced into Western Australian liquor legislation in 2007 when the Liquor Control Act 1988 was significantly amended in an attempt to create a new drinking scene and culture, as well as to try to rid Perth of its ‘dullsville’ tag.

The small bar concept is seen as a way to reduce alcohol related harm because of the reduced numbers of patrons, smaller premises, uniqueness of the concept and the prospect of greater licensee control over the operation.  The status of small bars as low impact venues is confirmed in the licensing authority’s Public Interest Assessment policy which states that ‘public interest issues associated with premises such as hotel/taverns, nightclubs, liquor stores and some special facility licences are often more complex than small bars…

However, in Victoria it has been decided to ‘freeze’ all new liquor licences authorising trading beyond 1am in Melbourne.  In New South Wales a report has highlighted outlet density as a major cause of assaults.  These developments have potential to start to cast doubt on whether small bars will necessarily continue to be considered low impact venues.  Indeed there have been some recent suggestions by the Western Australian police that small bars are contributing to alcohol related harm in a section of the City.

The authorities’ attitudes towards small bars could quickly change if there is evidence they do in fact contribute to alcohol related harm.  In such circumstances there is the potential for small bars to cease being considered ‘less complex’ than other applications and they may begin to face closer scrutiny from decision makers.

In any event, there is clear evidence as some of our recent snapshots have indicated, that applicants generally are facing increased scrutiny in discharging their onus of proof.  Should things continue to tighten it may make obtaining such a licence significantly more difficult and potentially less likely into the future.

If you have any queries about this article, please do not hesitate to contact Dan Mossenson, Partner on (08) 9288 6769 / or Alec Weston, Solicitor on (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.