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Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill

What the Bill proposes
(S.6(2c), 8(2), parts of 30 and Part III repealed)

  • clubs to become on-licences,
  • clubs can sell to public, not just members
  • clubs can have off-licences
  • off and on-sales will include Sundays
  • on-licence means trained managers and higher fees
  • dispensations likely to be widespread

Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit

  • Strongly opposes this as representing a major change in the role of clubs in the sale of alcohol.
  • supports the continuance of club licences for the sale of liquor to members and guests only, for consumption on the premises
  • Supports the requirement for clubs (and all other licensed premises) to have a certified manager present at all times when alcohol is sold.
Clubs to sell to the public?
All club licences are now to be on-licences.
This means clubs will have to meet requirements for managers present at all times when alcohol is being sold, which is supported. At a later date to be decided later by Order in Council, training will be required for a manager’s certificate.

On licences pay a higher fee than clubs. However, many smaller clubs have been complaining that the fee is already too high and were lobbying for a two tier fee structure for larger and smaller clubs.

How will these costs be offset? Well, the on-licence means that clubs will be able to sell to the public, not just members. Changes including ‘type of person sold to’ as a term of the licence may be intended to mean that they can opt to sell to members only; currently case law suggests that such a limitation could not be imposed on them.

Also there will no longer be a restriction on clubs holding an off-licence (C.24 repeals 30(3)(i), (j) and (4)), which may be an additional source of income - and supply to the public.

At present, clubs can trade on Sunday - in fact many sports clubs do most of their trading on weekends. Few clubs are serving alcohol with a meal like other on-licensed open on Sundays. However, this will not create unfair competition since the Bill proposes allowing all licensed premises to trade on Sundays.

An alternative way of dealing with higher on-licence fees and management requirements - or perhaps an additional one - will be to apply for a dispensation. The Review committee recommended dispensations for clubs and for well-larger run premises and anticipated that these would be widespread. This is likely as the proposed legislation suggests it will be nearly as difficulty to refuse a dispensation as it currently is to refuse a new licence. Moreover, dispensations will be in the power of local District Licensing Agencies, ie councillors who in small communities may be well known to club members.

Taken together, these proposals are like to lead to radical change in the role of clubs in the sale and supply of alcohol.

The current club licence
Regulation and enforcement for club licences respects the 'private' nature of clubs of members - the basis, for example, of their right to sell alcohol on Sundays, and for the licence to be held by the trustees or committee of an incorporated society (with various tax benefit, funding possibilities etc) rather than a responsible licensee or certified manager. Premises which profit from selling liquor to the general public are under present law not entitled to such privileges.
There is some evidence to suggest that clubs are not always meeting their side of the bargain and that there should be greater enforcement directed towards clubs, especially sports clubs, with regard to underage drinking and host responsibility practices (Hill & Stewart 1996; Wyllie, Holibar & Tunks 1995; Wyllie, Millard & Zhang 1996). There is a need for a responsible person designated as manager to be present at all times, and to have training in host responsibility and legal obligations under the Act. Larger clubs, in particular, should be required to meet the same standards of host management as other licensed premises. Many clubs for the main male sporting codes have sponsorship tie-ups with liquor companies, and are one of the routes by which teenage males learning about drinking and ‘what it means to be a man’.

Clubs can already opt for an on-licence
There is nothing to prevent a club which wishes to go into the business of selling alcohol, rather than organising sport or for some other charitable purpose, from registering as a company, rather than an incorporated society, and having its director apply for an ordinary on- liquor licence. It could then also apply for an off-licence, if wished. Both licensee and company would then be required to meet a different set of legal, licensing and tax responsibilities. The same holds for a local authority.

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