Our alcohol laws are governed by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. The Act which replaced the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 for safe and responsible drinking, and minimisation of social harms associated with alcohol abuse.
There are four main kinds of liquor licences: On-licence, off-licence, club licence and special licence.
For one-off events a ‘special licence’ is required if you are:
- Selling alcohol at an event, or
- Charging an entry fee, collecting donations or subscription fees where alcohol is being supplied for free.
There are a range of events that require liquor licences, some of them include chartered bus, train and limousine trips, food and wine festivals or a wedding function in a council hall.
Liquor licences are required even for events where alcohol is sold with no profits made from the sale.
Events where alcohol is being served for free and the attendees either:
1) reimburse the host for any alcohol consumed at the event whether it takes place in a private home or hired venue (e.g. birthday party, launch event) or
2) purchased tickets or expected to make monetary donations, or donations in other forms such as food and drink donations or advertising (eg fundraisers events) or,
3) are subscription paying members in social, sports clubs and associations.
Unless no money is exchanged (in any form – whether through direct sales, ticket sales, donations or subscription fees), it is likely that the event will not require a licence even though alcohol will be supplied. Below are some examples of events where no licence is required:
- A public or private charity dinner where alcohol served and you do not charge in any way or request donations in any form from attendees.
- A private event held at a hired venue where the guest provides their own alcohol or the host supplies it for free.
When applying to your local council, the application for a special licence may ask (depending on the size of your event) you to provide supporting documents (such as event and alcohol management plan or consents from building owners). The application must be lodged at least 20 working days before the event (this excludes day when the application is made and day of the event). Exemptions can be made under special circumstances (e.g a funeral). In this case, a request can be sought from the district licensing committee to accept your late application.
If you host a number of events over the course of the year, you can also apply for an on-licence which covers multiple events.
The district licensing committee decides whether you will need to publicly notify (and the type of notice, e.g in a newspaper, or by putting up a notice on the premises) your special licence application. If there are any public objections or opposition to your application from the Police, the licensing inspector or the Medicial Officer of Health, the committee must call a public hearing to consider the application. This will slow down the application as there need to be at least 10 working days notice of any public hearing.
The criteria for granting special licence is under section 142 of the Act as well as any relevant case law.
The application fee is calculated based on the size and number of events planned.
Failure to comply with the Act is an offence and could result in imprisonment or substantial fines. So, if you are selling or supplying alcohol for your event it is advisable that you arrange for your liquor licence as early as possible in order to avoid any delays.
Further information can be found on your local council’s website on local licensing processes and the steps to apply for a liquor licence. You can also contact your Solicitor if you need further advice.