In a divisive conclusion to months of uncertainty, the Queensland Government this morning succeeded in passing theTackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (the Bill)known otherwise as the “lock-out laws.” 

With numerous provisions of this Bill set to come into operation from as early as July this year, the incoming Act appears poised to change the landscape of Queensland’s nightlife and the way in which licensed premises can conduct trade.

In this Alert, Partner Darrell Jardine, Consultant Peter Thomas and Solicitor Kerrod Giles break down the crucial aspects of this legislation, outline the issues that may affect your business and also discuss underlying implications of this legislation not yet widely contemplated.

Key Components of the Bill

The key components of the Bill are as follows:

  • All licensees of licensed premises across the state (except commercial special facility licences that are casinos and airports) will be required to cease selling liquor at 2.00am from 1 July 2016.
  • However, licensees in a “3am Safe Night Precinct” approved by the Minister may sell liquor to patrons until 3.00am on application. They will be subject to a lock out condition between 1.00am and 3.00am, e.g. patrons cannot be allowed to enter the premises between these hours.  The lock out condition commences on 1 February 2017.
  • The Bill also introduces a raft of provisions aimed at limiting the consumption of “rapid intoxication drinks”.  These provisions will come into effect from 1 July 2016.  The Bill defines rapid intoxication drinks as “drinks that are designed to be consumed rapidly or contain a high percentage of alcohol” e.g shots.  These drinks are to be specified by the liquor regulations that are yet to be enacted.  However, the provisions of the Bill outline that:
    • The sale of “rapid intoxication drinks” is not permitted between 12.00am and 5.00am - once again, this restriction does not apply to commercial special facility licences that are casinos or airports or premises that are subject to an industrial canteen licence; and 
    • Licensees are able to apply to the Commissioner for an exemption to the restrictions placed on rapid intoxication drinks.  The Bill provides a number of grounds on which exemptions can be sought. 
  • Licensees will not be able to apply for “takeaway” liquor trading after 10.00pm.  Existing approvals are not affected and will remain in place at this stage.
  • Community club licences, in addition to being able to sell liquor for takeaway purposes to members and members of a reciprocal club, can now also sell takeaway liquor to guests of a club member, guests of a reciprocal club member or a bona fide visitor to the club (residing more than 15 kilometres from the club).

Did you know?

As a consequence of these amendments, you should be aware that the following issues may be relevant to the operation of your business:

  • The reduction in trading hours of licensed premises does not mean that they have to “close their doors” after the time that they are permitted to sell liquor.  The Premises can remain open for other activities, e.g entertainment, gaming and the sale of soft drinks.
  • When a lock out condition is implemented in a 3.00am safe night precinct, all licensees within that precinct must comply with that lock out condition even if they only trade until 2.00am. 
  • The lock out condition prohibits patrons entering licensed premises between 1.00am and 3.00am however it does not prohibit patrons entering the premises after 3.00am to avail themselves of the other activities being carried on at the premises such as for example gaming and entertainment.
  • All gaming approvals in place prior to the commencement of the new provisions are “grandfathered” and remain in place irrespective of the approved liquor trading hours of the premises. Previously, gaming trading hours were linked to the liquor trading hours of the premises.  This has now changed, e.g. if a licensee has gaming and liquor approvals until 5.00am and liquor hours are wound back to 2.00am, the licensee is still permitted to allow gaming on their premises up until 5.00am.
  • If a licensee, after the commencement of the new Act, wishes to extend their gaming hours beyond their approved and existing liquor trading hours, they may do so on application for up to two hours after the approved liquor trading hours.
  • Licensees will still be able to apply for “one off” extended trading hours permit (up to 12 in a one year period).  However, they should be aware that it will be highly likely that a lock out condition will be imposed from 1.00am to the end of the permit’s permitted trading hours e.g 5.00am.
  • At this stage, it appears that the application processes that licensees will need to undertake in order to obtain exemptions from the prohibition on rapid intoxication drinks and the application for the additional one hour of trading in the 3am safe night precincts are still to be finalised by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.
  • Adult Entertainment Permit holders appear to be unaffected by the Bill. This means that those with a current AEP are allowed to continue to operate Adult Entertainment during the hours of their AEP.
  • There has been no change to the existing consumption period for liquor which remains at 30 minutes after the licensee must cease selling liquor at their premises.
  • The Government is still considering the merits of the installation of mandatory identification scanners for licensed premises which trade after 12.00am.
  • The laws will be independently reviewed two years after the commencement of the legislation on 1 July 2016.