The Victorian Government is delivering on its election commitment to deliver a system of responsible liquor licensing contributing to a vibrant and safe community in Victoria, with a number of reforms coming into effect from this week, Minister for Consumer Affairs Michael O'Brien said.
"We were elected on a pledge to regulate the liquor industry in a responsible way, and in a manner that can be easily understood by both licensees and patrons," Mr O'Brien said.
"The changes in effect today are an important part of the Government's comprehensive plan to sweep away the confusion and bureaucracy around liquor licensing."
Among the reforms to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 are:
- a specialist liquor licence for wine and beer producers to better suit the way these businesses operate;
- a demerit point system with three demerit point thresholds that will lead to automatic liquor licence suspensions of 24 hours, seven days or 28 days; and,
- a five star rating system that rewards venues for avoiding non-compliance incidents with lower licence renewal fees.
Licensees will incur demerit points for offences referred to as non-compliance incidents. The allocation of these demerit points will in turn affect a licence's star rating.
Non-compliance incidents relate to only the most serious offences under the Act such as the supply of liquor to an intoxicated person or supplying liquor to a minor.
Mr O'Brien said holding a liquor licence was a privilege, not a right, and selling alcohol comes with very real and serious obligations.
"These changes reform the Victorian liquor licensing system to create a fairer and more efficient system by penalising those who flout the law and rewarding those that supply liquor responsibly," Mr O'Brien said.
The demerit points system will penalise licensees that repeatedly break the law with non-compliant licensees facing possible suspensions of up to 28 days.
Mr O'Brien said demerit points will be removed from the licensee's record after three years and will be published online.
"Licensees who breach their responsibilities under the Act can expect to face tough penalties.
"Along with punishing those that flout the law, we also want to ensure licensees who do the right thing are not disadvantaged. The new five-star rating system will reward good behaviour and provide an incentive for licensees to do the right thing."
A star rating is calculated on the basis of whether a non-compliance incident has occurred in respect of the licensed premises.
All licensees will commence on a 3-star rating that will then vary in subsequent years depending on performance. Licensees that consistently obey relevant liquor law will receive discounts on their annual licence fees
"Good licensees with good track records should be recognised and encouraged to maintain the high standards Victorians expect from the industry," Mr O'Brien said.
"Licensees with a four-star rating will receive a five per cent discount on their renewal fee, and licensees with a five-star rating will receive a ten per cent discount on their renewal fee.
"This potential discount does not apply to licences with sexually explicit entertainment conditions.
"The introduction of a modern and flexible wine and beer producer's licence recognises that the state's wine and beer makers are a vital part of our cultural sector and that their licence obligations should reflect the way their businesses operate, rather than enduring a one-size-fits-all approach.
"The Coalition Government has also delivered on its commitment to address the lower fees and unfair competitive advantage obtained by bottle shops trading under a general licence. To improve the consistency and equity of licensing arrangements across these types of businesses, new bottle shops will no longer be able to obtain a general licence."
Further information on liquor licensing is available at vcglr.vic.gov.au