Current Issue #477

Small bar licence fees to triple in liquor licensing overhaul

Small bar licence fees to triple in liquor licensing overhaul

With the issue of federal election messaging now passed, the state government has introduced a range of fee changes that include a long-mooted shake up of the liquor licensing system.

This week the government revealed details of its new, risk-based licensing fee structure based on a 2016 review by the Hon Tim Anderson QC. Under the new system, venues can use a fee calculator to determine their base licensing fee based on eight different categories, followed by a variety of additional costs dependent on capacity, trading hours, location and type of venue.

One of the more noteworthy changes is the introduction of $500 fees for venues with ‘high-risk’ activities or locations, which apply to Hindley Street pubs and hotels, and venues hosting ‘sexually explicit’ entertainment or boxing and martial arts events. Additionally, venues that operate past 2am (current lockout laws take effect from 3am) will pay an additional $2,000-$30,000 ‘trading risk’ fee depending on how late they open. In the example given by the government, a hotel with an onsite bottle shop and capacity of 200 that closes after 4am will now stand to pay $16,325, an almost sevenfold increase from the previous system.

The Small Venue Licence – a signature piece of reform introduced by the former Labor government – will also see its fees more than triple to $425. According to the government, the initial fee was introduced at a deliberately low rate to encourage the uptake of the scheme throughout the city. With Adelaide now well and truly stocked with small bars and venues, by that logic the change is a vote of confidence in an occasionally maligned class of venue.

The state government has introduced a new rubrik for determining liquor licensing fees (Source: Consumer and Business Services)

Another new addition is a ‘user pays’ scheme for large commercial events requiring a police presence, such as cricket matches, the Royal Adelaide Show or AFL games. This brings South Australia in line with Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. The latter state’s use of the system has drawn sustained criticism from music festival promoters, who claim exorbitant and inconsistent police fees are making music festivals unsustainable in New South Wales. The Adelaide Review has sought clarification from the state government as to whether music festivals are included in the new system. UPDATE: Read the full story on the state government’s planned changes to event policing and what it could mean for South Australia’s music festivals

These new fees are one piece of a range of spending cuts and income-raising measures introduced this week. Changes include a 10c increase for Adelaide Metro fares and the abolition of 2-section fares (the government claims the two-tier system was open to misuse), and substantial increases in fines for alcohol, speed and drug related driving offences, with penalties for mobile phone use while driving more than doubling.

With the federal government leaving South Australia with a massive shortfall in GST revenue, such fee changes are evidently part of a wider budget reshuffle, with the government has also making cuts to Brand South Australia, the Adelaide Fashion Festival and Reclink in the past week.

The new liquor licensing system will take full effect from November 2019, with all existing licences and applications to be frozen from September 23.

Leigh Street
Leigh Street and Peel Street have benefited from an influx of small bars

This article was updated on Friday, June 7, 2019

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