By Jessica Patterson, Lavan Legal
I am Special Counsel in liquor, hospitality and events at Lavan Legal. I have been specialising in Western Australian liquor licensing law since 1998, representing a very broad range of clients. I handle all manner of liquor licensing matters, contentious and non-contentious, for premises of all kinds and I advise on an extensive range of topics and issues relating to the hospitality and event industries. I provide technical and practical advice and assist with development of business models, management plans and operational strategies, amongst other things.
Western Australian liquor laws contain a vast array of compliance obligations and responsibilities for licensees and their staff. Those include not only the obvious conditions endorsed on a licence, but also provisions in the liquor legislation and policies of the Director of Liquor Licensing.
Generally speaking there are two categories of obligations and responsibilities associated with a liquor licence: First, in relation to the physical premises – licensed premises cannot be “altered” unless approved. Second, in relation to the day-to-day trading of the business – how liquor is sold, supplied, consumed and how the business is run.
Non-compliance can have any number of consequences. The licensing authority and police have broad powers to sanction licensees for non-compliance such as varied licence conditions, infringements, disciplinary proceedings, financial penalties, suspensions and cancellations of licence.
In regards to varied conditions, the licensing authority can be creative. Conditions can potentially be operationally, practically and commercially inhibiting for licensees and also difficult to change, so care must be taken when faced with the prospect of having existing conditions varied or new ones imposed.
In regard to infringements, because they are often issued for what seem like minor incidents and for only small amounts, licensees are inclined to simply pay it and move on. This approach certainly seems sensible and commercial – why pay to challenge or defend a $500 or $1000 infringement? There will be times when this is the most appropriate approach, however, beware the humble infringement. The simple act of paying it can potentially have long term consequences.
I have developed an audit tool for licensees called a Lawdit which involves me inspecting premises and carrying out a friendly audit of key compliance areas, taking notes and then providing a report and comments on whether there are ways to better maximise on the licence and enhance trading privileges.