Western Australia is set to see the most significant reforms to its liquor laws in a decade, which the state’s government has said will “support local businesses, create more jobs and drive a new wave of activity through WA’s vibrant hospitality scene”.
The Liquor Control Amendment Bill 2018 will be presented to State Parliament next week and changes include the tourism benefits of liquor licence applications to be considered, licensed restaurants with a capacity of 120 people or less able to serve alcohol without a meal and patrons able to take home their unfinished wine bottle when out to dinner at a small bar or tavern.
The Government said that the changes reflect a sensible balance between harm minimisation and transforming the drinking culture in Perth by permitting venues to cater for the after-work drinks crowd and giving greater choice to visitors.
WA Premier, Mark McGowan said: “We’re getting on with the job by introducing these reforms to cut red tape and bring in a more common-sense approach to liquor licensing.
“Our small bar scene changed the face of Perth, it drove new economic activity and injected life into the heart of the city and towns across our State – and it didn’t cost taxpayers a cent.
“I want to pick up from where I left off and encourage more vibrancy in our hospitality industry and make it easier for local businesses to do business.
“Since our first wave of reforms in 2006, 118 small bars are now operating across our State and with these further changes, we hope to see more innovative small businesses opening, creating more jobs for Western Australians.”
Tourism and Racing and Gaming Minister Paul Papalia added: “These reforms will mean venues that deliver cultural and tourism value will have a better chance of obtaining a suitable liquor licence.
“This is just another example of the McGowan Government’s commitment to deliver a suite of changes that will elevate the importance of tourism in our State by modernising WA’s liquor laws.”
The reforms have been widely welcomed by the WA hospitality industry and business community, with AHA(WA) CEO Bradley Woods saying there were a number of liquor reforms that will ensure the state’s liquor laws are more conducive to a modern economy and better aligned to customer needs.
“We welcome the McGowan Government’s efforts to create a better framework for liquor licensing that will assist WA’s hospitality businesses to deliver a better experience for their customers,” Woods said.
“It is encouraging to see the proper inclusion of tourism and its economic and employment benefits when assessing permits and applications.
“We welcome the ability of the CEO of Tourism Western Australia to be given equal consideration to that of the Chief Health Officer and Commissioner of Police when assessing liquor licensing applications.
“Other changes championed by the Australian Hotels Association are yet to be announced and we look forward to seeing the detail of the legislation when it is tabled in Parliament next week.”
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCI) also welcomed the announcement, with Chief Executive Officer Chris Rodwell saying that the CCI has long supported reform of WA’s liquor licencing laws.
“Perth’s small bar scene flourished as a result of these changes, and today’s reforms will boost this further, giving small businesses the flexibility they need to create jobs and meet consumer demand,” Rodwell said.
“CCI particularly welcomes the announcement that Tourism Western Australia’s Chief Executive Officer will be given equal consideration to assessing liquor licensing applications.
“This will go a long way toward resetting WA’s tourism agenda which has been lagging behind other states.”
He added: “The next step that the Government must now take to continue removing Perth’s label of ‘Dullsville’ and ensure local businesses can compete, is to deregulate retail trading hours.
“CCI encourages the State Government to continue to review WA’s retail trade regulations and, at the very least, bring us in line with the rest of the country.”
Restaurant & Catering Industry Association of Australia CEO Juliana Payne, said: “We strongly commend the Western Australian government for implementing a host of sensible, common-sense measures designed to lessen the impact of red tape, which we know is one of the biggest issues facing hospitality operators across the country.”
The Australian Medical Association WA has also largely welcomed the reforms, although President Dr Omar Khorshid did say that legitimate health concerns should not be ignored in favour of the drive for tourism dollars.
“It seems reasonable to take a broader view, but it is really important that legitimate concerns by health authorities or by police are not diluted by a purely economic focus that you’re going to get from Tourism Australia,” he said.
“What we need to see in our community is a more mature approach to alcohol.
“Drinking without ordering a meal in small quantities is safe and not a problem, but obviously we need to monitor these sorts of changes very carefully to make sure that people aren’t consuming large amounts of alcohol on an empty stomach, which is leading to then risky behaviour.”