It is 15 years since the laneways and entertainment precincts of Western Australia were transformed thanks to the introduction of the first small bar licence, heralding a more sophisticated drinking culture and evolving WA’s hospitality scene.

Among the first to receive a small bar licence was Helvetica – one of Perth’s original laneway bars – which remains a staple for Perth bar-goers to this day.

In just 15 years the number of small bars in WA has risen to 241, almost half of which opened in the past five years.

Further reforms to liquor laws were introduced in 2018, which cut red tape and meant the cultural and tourism value of venues could be considered in determining liquor licence applications.

Following a challenging period for the hospitality scene, the McGowan Government is today launching an industry consultation to investigate further improvements to WA’s liquor laws.

Premier Mark McGowan said: “The liquor reforms in 2006 gave rise to the 241 small bars that locals and visitors across Western Australia enjoy today.

“The result has been a more diverse, more sophisticated, and more creative hospitality sector in Western Australia – supporting local jobs right across the State.

“Our local bar scene continues to evolve, and we want to ensure our liquor laws and regulations adapt with the times.

“As we celebrate 15 years of small bars in Western Australia, I welcome the launch of consultation to see how we can build on that success.”

A range of potential improvements will be considered, including eliminating unnecessary red tape, a simpler licensing system, and a faster, more cost-effective approvals process.

Examples of proposals include revisiting meal requirements under certain licence categories, reviewing restrictions on certain drinks under licence categories, and examining whether trading hour restrictions remain fit for purpose.

Racing and Gaming Minister Tony Buti added: “The growth of small bars over the past 15 years has been a joy to experience, and is a key example of a no-cost reform that has resulted in ongoing economic and social benefits. Western Australia should be exceptionally proud of its growing hospitality sector, which has emerged from a tough few years.

“I have listened to feedback from industry – this review will be a way to formalise the ideas I’ve heard to see what we can do to make it easier to do business.

“The challenge will be to balance the needs of the State’s tourism, hospitality, and liquor industries with our objectives to foster a safe drinking culture.

“Feedback is essential to help make these important decisions about the future of the liquor industry.”

The reform program is being administered by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries with extensive consultation taking place over the next few months.

The preliminary consultation phase will help guide the development of detailed reform options for a formal consultation process during 2023.

The AHA WA has welcomed news of the reforms, with CEO Bradley Woods, saying: “Liquor laws, regulations and policies shape the daily operations of WA’s hospitality venues and customer experiences, so this review is an important opportunity to step back and look at whether they are working effectively.

“There are several obvious opportunities to modernise WA’s Liquor Control Act, such as removing outdated conditions that require patrons to have a meal when having a drink on Good Friday and Christmas Day.

“We would also welcome a comprehensive review into the various conditions that are placed on licenses to ensure they are warranted, able to facilitate customer expectations and are mindful of current business settings.”

“WA’s hotels, bars, taverns and restaurants are looking for ways to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens that are placed on them, and we will be working to ensure this is prioritised over the next 12 months.”

Stakeholders are encouraged to have their say on the future of WA’s liquor laws at

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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