NSW Releases Draft Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill 2020 for Public Consultation

Tuesday 12 May 2020 @ 11.48 a.m. | Legal Research

On 4 May 2020, the NSW Department of Liquor and Gaming (“the Department”) released the draft Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill 2020 (NSW) (“the draft Bill”) for public consultation.

The draft Bill aims to support a safe 24-hour economy, once the Coronavirus restrictions are lifted. The draft Bill is the second part of the Government’s response to the Joint Select Committee Report on Sydney’s Night Time Economy (“Committee Report”).

The Committee Report and January Regulatory Changes

The Joint Select Committee on Sydney’s Night Time Economy (“the Joint Committee”) was established on 29 May 2019. The Committee was to investigate and report on Sydney’s night time economy, and any additional measures that would need to be put into place to:

  • Maintain and improve on community safety
  • Maintain and improve individual and community health outcomes
  • Ensure that regulatory arrangements remain appropriately balanced
  • Enhance this part of Sydney’s economy

On 30 September 2019, the Joint Committee published its final report containing 40 recommendations. The NSW Government released its response to the Committee Report on 28 November 2019, either supporting or partially supporting all recommendations. The changes to be made were to be carried out in stages to allow for consultation at the necessary stages.

On 14 January 2020, the Liquor Amendment (Night Time Economy) Regulation 2019 (NSW) (“the Regulation”) commenced, implementing the first stage of liquor law changes in NSW. Some of the key changes made by the Regulation include:

  • Removal of the 1:30am lockout for venues in Sydney CBD
  • Removal of the restrictions on serving custom cocktails, shots, and spirits after midnight in Sydney CBD
  • Last drinks extended to 3:30am for venues in Sydney CBD
  • Opening hours for NSW bottle shops extended to midnight for Monday to Saturday, and to 11pm on Sundays
  • Patron capacity increased to 120 for small bars in NSW

The Draft Bill

One of the key changes proposed under the draft Bill is the introduction of a single integrated system of incentives and sanctions in order to encourage good behaviour, minimise violence, and reduce breaches of liquor laws. Currently there are three sanction schemes under the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW):

  • The Three Strikes Scheme
  • The Declared Premises Scheme (also known as the Violent Venues Scheme)
  • The Minor Sanctions Scheme

The proposed system aims to replace these schemes with a simpler demerit point system. Demerit points will accrue in cases of breaches of liquor laws, serious violence, or safety issues. The points will last for 3 years, unless the Department approves the removal of the points sooner. Licensees and managers who take proactive steps to address risks that have led to a demerit point will be eligible to apply for its early removal. The demerit points will be maintained on a register, which will be available to the public online to maintain transparency.

The draft Bill also contains other changes that aim to:

  • Support live music and entertainment by removing outdated conditions on liquor licenses and waiving application fees to change or remove other live music conditions
  • Improve the approval process for small bar licenses
  • Clarify the role of the Department in regards to compliance and enforcement of noise complaints
  • Allow small bars to offer more family-orientated services in order to support smaller businesses and encourage broader use of this lower-risk license
  • Introduce a different approach of managing alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour in more dense areas of licensed premises
  • Create a new regulatory framework to ensure that liquor laws are observed with same day alcohol deliveries in NSW
  • Make additional changes to remove red tape, reduce overlap and improve regulation of the industry

Consultation of the draft Bill is currently open. Further details on submissions and the progress of the consultation can be found on the NSW Department of Liquor and Gaming website.

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[Draft] Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill 2020 (NSW) and supporting documents available from TimeBase LawOne Service

Laws to help grow a 24 hour economy (NSW Department of Liquor and Gaming, 4 May 2020)

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