On 1 July 2016, the Queensland Government commenced the implementation of the first wave of new restrictions under the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (Qld) (Act). The staggered roll out of these new restrictions means that it is now more important than ever for licensees to ensure they are taking appropriate steps to comply with their legislative responsibilities, particularly with respect to the service of alcohol.

One of the largest changes under the Act affecting licensees is the introduction of new requirements surrounding the service of “rapid intoxication drinks”.

Rapid intoxication drinks

Under the Act, a drink that falls within the definition of a “rapid intoxication drink” cannot be sold from a licensed venue between 12.00am and 5.00am. The Liquor Regulation 2002 (Qld) (Liquor Regulation) now prescribes that rapid intoxication drinks include:

  • A drink served in a small glass or other small container such as shooters, shots, bombs, blasters, test tubes, jelly shots, and other similar drinks;
  • A drink prepared on the licensed premises that contains more than 45ml of spirits or liqueur; and
  • A pre-mixed alcoholic drink containing more than 5% of ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or containing more ethanol than 2 standard drinks. A pre-mixed drink must fall within both the 5% alcohol by volume threshold and the 2 standard drinks threshold in order to be served after midnight.

It is worth noting that under the Liquor Regulation, a pre-mixed drink does not include brewed or fermented alcoholic drinks, such as beer or wine; cocktails are also exempted from the ban on rapid intoxication drinks, so long as the cocktail is listed on a document prepared by the Licensee (such as a cocktail menu) setting out the price of the cocktail and that cocktail is not sold for less than that price after midnight.

Practical issues for licensees and staff

The Government’s clear objective for introducing these provisions is to prevent patrons from purchasing and consuming rapid intoxication drinks in licensed premises and precincts after midnight.

The new legislation does not specifically indicate, though, whether there is to be a grace period after 12.00am during which patrons must finish their rapid intoxication drinks in the same way that patrons are permitted a grace period to finish regular alcoholic beverages. In our view, as it is presently unclear and unlikely whether the current consumption provisions outlined in the Liquor Act 1992 (Qld) (Liquor Act) would apply to the consumption of rapid intoxication drinks, it would appear that patrons will be able to consume these drinks up to and including the time when other liquor is legally allowed to be consumed on the premises (e.g. for premises with approved trading to 3am, consumption is permitted up to 3.30am).

Accordingly, there are a number of practical issues that licensees and their staff need to be aware of to ensure they are conducting the service of alcohol in a manner that is consistent with the objectives of the Act.

It is likely that some patrons may attempt to undermine the objectives of the Act by engaging in the following practices:

  • Stacking (otherwise known as hoarding) rapid intoxication drinks or ordering a large quantity of a rapid intoxication drink (such as a bucket) prior to the end of the service period for rapid intoxication drinks (12.00am); or
  • Ordering multiple drinks, each with an alcoholic content lower than that of a rapid intoxication drink and subsequently combining those drinks.

However, above all, licensees and their staff must:

  • Be aware of the new restrictions on the sale of rapid intoxication drinks and the importance of complying with those restrictions; and
  • Ensure that whatever practices are permitted on their premises in relation to the sale and consumption of rapid intoxication drinks, both before and after midnight, always comply with the responsible hospitality practices imposed on them by the Liquor Act and the Liquor Regulations.