By Matthew Jones, director Liquor & Gaming Specialists
Queensland’s new definition of undue intoxication is now in force, heralding a world of risk for the state’s licensees.
According to the new section 9A of the Liquor Act 1992, a person may be taken to be unduly intoxicated if “the person’s speech, balance, coordination or behaviour is noticeably affected” and there are reasonable grounds for believing this “is the result of the consumption of liquor, drugs or another intoxicating substance”.
To go with the new definition is a heightened focus by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation on responsible service of alcohol obligations; which of course revolve around prohibitions on serving unduly intoxicated persons or allowing liquor to be supplied to or consumed by a person in this condition.
First impressions of the new definition seem to be that a punter need not have consumed much liquor to be refused service. If bar staff notice that a person’s speech is in any way affected, for example, then according to Section 9A they are unduly intoxicated. If they’re louder than usual, a little bit steady, perhaps a little less inhibited than might usually be the case, then – according to the new definition – maybe they should be refused service.
A number of submissions to Government responding to the proposed change pointed out that the new Section was defining “intoxication” not “undue intoxication” and that it therefore went too far. The definition which it replaced, whilst hellishly difficult to enforce, at least factored in that people behave differently in different circumstances.
For the time being at least it seems unlikely that this aspect will be reconsidered. The mystery shopper program, the employment of additional compliance personnel and the ongoing public interest in this subject should sound yet another clear warning to licensees to be on their guard. For the Government’s part, it’s hoped that the application of the new standard will be tempered with at least some degree of reasonableness. The alternative could be another nail in the already stressed on-premise coffin.
For Matthew Jones' complete artilce see the latest edition of Australian Hotelier.