Do I Need a Liquor Licence?

Do I Need a Liquor Licence?


Liquor licensing is administered by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulations (the OLGR) in Queensland and is governed by the Liquor Act 1992 (QLD) (the Liquor Act).

Often, businesses and individuals don’t fully understand the requirements of providing alcohol in the course of their business and it can lead to problems down the track.


In this article we briefly look over the Liquor Act and whether you might need a liquor licence or if you could be (inadvertently!) breaking the law.


What Is Sell?


A common misconception is that if you simply ‘give’ someone liquor or not actually receive money in exchange, then you are not ‘selling’ liquor. A closer look at the definition of ‘sell’ in the Liquor Act reveals that ‘selling’ covers a lot more scenarios than what originally may have been thought.


sell includes—

(a) barter or exchange; and

(b) offer, agree or attempt to sell; and

(c) expose, send, forward or deliver for sale; and

(d) cause or permit to be sold or offered for sale; and

(e) supply or offer, agree or attempt to supply—

(i) in circumstances in which the supplier derives, or would be likely to derive, a direct or indirect pecuniary benefit; or

(ii) gratuitously, but to gain or keep custom or other commercial advantage.


As can be seen, just because there is no money exchanged, this does not mean a business is not ‘selling’ alcohol.


So, What Circumstances Might Mean You Are ‘Selling’ Alcohol?


One of the most common scenarios is in the beauty/personal services industry when a customer might attend a day spa for a massage or a beauty therapist for a facial and the customer is given a ‘complimentary’ glass of champagne on arrival.

Why is the business doing this? To make their customer happy in the hopes they might return or refer other people to the business – in other words ‘gratuitously, but to gain or keep custom or other commercial advantage’ which falls within the definition of ‘sell’.


The Offences


So, what can happen if you provide liquor in the course of your business? Under the Act there is multiple offences relating to selling liquor without an appropriate licence or permit, the main one being:


169 Authority required for sale

A person must not sell liquor unless—

(a) if the liquor is wine—the sale is made under the authority of a licence or permit under this Act or the Wine Industry Act 1994; or

(b) otherwise—the sale is made under the authority of a licence or permit.


Maximum penalty—


(a) for a first offence—500 penalty units; or

(b) for a second offence—700 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment; or

(c) for a third or later offence—1,000 penalty units or 18 months imprisonment.


The current (as of September 2023) penalty unit value in Queensland is $154.80, therefore the maximum penalty for first offences under section 169 is $77,400.00!


What About The Exemptions?


There are some exemptions for the need to obtain a liquor licence, however, it is important to be aware of the requirements to fall within an exemption. Below we list a few of the most common exemptions:


  1. Hairdressing Salons – chairs where you cut hair!

Hairdressing salons are exempt, but only if the drinks are limited to 2 standard drinks to a customer in a day and it is not supplied on Christmas Day, Good Friday or before 1pm on Anzac Day.


  1. Gift Hampers and Baskets

However, there are strict rules to qualify for this exemption including the alcohol sale being part of the business, no more than 2 litres of beer or wine and no more than 1 litre of spirits per hamper/basket, it must be delivered to the purchaser, the total value of the alcohol cannot exceed 75% of the entire hamper/basket, and the alcohol must be purchased on a retail basis (no wholesale).


Other exemptions include limousines, tour operators, B & B’s and host farm accommodation – contact us today for more information regarding these exemptions and the requirements.


What Happens If I Am Investigated?


If the OLGR suspects you may have been selling or supplying alcohol without a licence or permit, then they may investigate you. The Liquor Act provides the OLGR and its officers a wide range of investigative powers including searching premises and requiring you to provide documents (such as bank statements). Should this happen to you it is best to contact us immediately so we can advise you. You are not required to answer questions that may incriminate you.


As noted above the offences carry significant financial maximum penalties, however, these are reserved for the most serious offending and there are alternative options that the OLGR may take.


This includes formal warnings and infringement notices (‘on the spot’ fines). The following is an extract from the Liquor Compliance Strategy published by the OLGR detailing some of the factors the OLGR considers when determining the most appropriate enforcement action:


  • The seriousness of the alleged offence and impact—The OLGR considers how the;

conduct being investigated may impact the main purposes of the Liquor Act, in particular, minimising harm and the adverse effects on the health and safety of the public or the community. Based on these considerations, the most serious offences, including those adversely impacting on public safety and the responsible service of liquor, can be expected to result in the strongest remedial actions.


  • Intent — Consideration is given to whether the person has made a genuine attempt to comply or if the issue is as a result of the licensee ignoring or disregarding a particular requirement or request.
  • Compliance history —The OLGR considers if the entity has a documented compliance history relating to similar issues and what action, if any, has been taken in the past.
  • Public interest and efficiency—When the most serious forms of enforcement action are deliberated, the OLGR considers whether the proposed action is in the public interest and a good use of public money. For example, if the same outcome can be achieved through issuing an infringement notice instead of taking prosecution action, an infringement notice may be considered more appropriate.[1]


Ignorance of the law is not a defence and you should be mindful of this. If you are unsure of your obligations under the Liquor Act, contact the friendly team at Miller Sockhill Lawyers today on (07) 5444 4750.

22 September 2023, Virginnia Yow.


[1] The full documents can be found here