By James Atkinson

Packaged liquor retailers owning multiple stores will be the worst hit by the risk-based liquor licensing scheme announced today by the New South Wales Government.

The new scheme will come into effect in the 2014-15 financial year with annual base fees applied to bottleshops where the licensee or a business owner has three or less outlets ($500 per licence); bottleshops where the licensee or a business owner has four to nine outlets ($1,000 per licence) and bottleshops where the licensee or a business owner has more than nine outlets ($2,000 per licence). 

Base fees will also be applied to hotels ($500); general bars ($250); small bars ($200); on-premises venues including licensed restaurants ($400); producer/wholesalers ($500) and multi-function limited liquor licences ($100).

Liquor Stores Association NSW CEO Terry Mott this afternoon said the association is “extremely disappointed with the scheme, which clearly penalises packaged liquor store owners who have successfully built their businesses in a cost efficient and responsible manner”.

“The department has failed to present any evidence that multi store ownership carries any greater risk than a single store owner,” he said.

“The only possible way that a multiple store owner can reduce their exposure to the fees is to close down stores reducing amenity, choice and competition in the market.

“We estimate it will cost NSW packaged liquor store owners in excess of $2.5 million per annum and  it will have to be absorbed by reduced working hours for employees or passed onto customers with higher prices,” said Mott.

“The absurdity of these fees is that one of our family run regional members who has zero compliance breaches against any of their stores will be paying a higher annual liquor licence fee than [Sydney hotel] ivy.”

Fees are modest, claims Souris

The Government said the scheme brings NSW into line with other jurisdictions where annual, risk-based licensing fee schemes help fund the cost of running the compliance system. These include Victoria (2009), Queensland (2008) and the Australian Capital Territory (2010). 

It said the July 1 implementation will allow licensees time to modify their operations and avoid higher loadings, and allow the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) to bring in online payments. 

 “The Government announced its intention to bring in this scheme as part of its comprehensive package of measures to address alcohol-related violence and we are now delivering on our promise,” Souris said. 

 “The fees are modest when considered over the course of a trading year and reflect the very real costs of compliance – such as putting licensing inspectors into the field.”

“The bottom line is that more than 75 per cent of the 18,400 licensed venue operators across NSW will pay a base fee of $100-$500 each year.”

Late trading venues will pay $2,500 above their base fee if they are authorised to sell alcohol between midnight and 1.30am on any day, or $5,000 if they are authorised to sell alcohol between 1.30am and 5am on any day.

Higher risk-based loadings apply from 2016 based on a venue’s compliance record for the previous calendar year. 

Venues caught breaching their licence conditions, committing an offence under the Three Strikes disciplinary scheme or being on the Violent Venues List, however, will incur a range of extra risk-based loadings for non-compliance.

OLGR has provided an online calculator to allow licensees to easily calculate their likely fee. OLGR estimates suggest up to 20 per cent of licences may be relinquished in response to the scheme’s introduction. Most are expected to be restaurants that are no longer trading.

Further details of the scheme are available here.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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  1. The Big Box liquor chains will be penalised the most, but they ultimately control 95% of liquor sales in the state. Cost of doing business in NSW.

  2. Apart from no evidence,what so ever suggesting that packaged liquor venues contribute to this contrived risk, the O’Farrel govt scheme flies straight back in the face of the federal govt’s initiative of cutting red tape and reducing cost to small business. Well done Bazza, NOT.

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