Since June 2013, Western Australian restaurateurs have been finding it easier to apply for a licence to serve alcohol to customers who haven’t ordered a meal.

Prior to 2006, the Liquor Control Act 1988 (Act) restricted licensed restaurants to serving alcohol only to customers along with a meal or, if customers didn’t order a meal, in a designated area that occupied less than 20% of the seating capacity of the restaurant.

To liven up the Western Australian entertainment scene, the Act was amended in 2006. These amendments included provisions allowing for up to 100% of the available seating capacity of a restaurant to be used for customers wishing to have a drink without a meal.

However, the efforts and costs involved in applying for this kind of licence were often disproportionate to the return for restaurants, and success was difficult to achieve. Applicants had to submit a public interest assessment, supporting evidence in favour of the grant and/or a section 40 certificate from the local planning authority.

Recent amendments to the Liquor Control Regulations 1989 mean that licensed restaurants with a capacity of up to 120 people can now apply for an extended trading permit (r.60(4)(ca) LCR). The extended trading permit replaces the previous method of applying for the right to serve alcohol to customers in any part of the restaurant. Even better: the application process is much simpler than the previous method for this kind of application. Restaurants intending to serve more than 120 customers are also able to apply for an extended trading permit, but for those businesses the news is less good: the previous tests, including the public interest test, are still required.

If granted, the extended trading permit continues to require that the license holder is predominantly in the business of being a restaurant serving food, and that the alcoholic beverage is served to customers sitting at a table.  However, it finally provides licensed restaurants an inexpensive way to provide customers with a service that they desire, without imposing a requirement to purchase food.