Update: Changes to Liquor Licence Application and Renewal Fees; Changes to Applications for Late Night Liquor Licences in Inner Melbourne Municipalities; Gambling reforms to be introduced by the Victorian Government

The Victorian Government has recently announced changes in respect of liquor licensing and gaming in Victoria as follows:

Statewide changes to liquor licence application and renewal fees

The Liquor Control Reform Regulations 2023 have now commenced operation. The new regulations introduce amended liquor licence renewal fees which will apply for the 2024 calendar year with a view to making the calculated renewal fees more consistent and equitable, and also provide changes to application fees for new liquor licences and modifications applications.

An immediate observation is that the majority of renewal fees and application fees are significantly higher.

In short the regulations create the following changes for annual renewal fees:

  1. As an example of an increase in licence fees for a specific category, we advise as follows in relation to a General Licence:
    • For a General Licence with no compliance history, the renewal fee for this year was $1,039.90.
    • For a General Licence with 201 – 400 patrons, the renewal fee for next year will be $2,352.40.
    • For a General Licence between 400 – 800 patrons, the renewal fee for next year will be $3,688.32.
  2. The renewal fee will follow the same model as the previous scheme – where there is a base renewal fee, with multipliers for trading hours, non-compliance incidents, and venue capacity.
  3. However, there are additional multipliers for floor area for venues that supply predominantly packaged liquor, and the multiplier for patron capacity has been consolidated into fewer ‘bands’ than previously.
  4. The existing ‘star rating’ and associated discounts will remain in place.
  5. The base renewal fee for a general licence (not a late night general licence) in defined rural and remote communities will have a 50% discount on the base renewal fee. The regulations will be updated to include a schedule of communities (defined by postcode) where the discount will apply.
  6. For venues with a higher maximum patron capacity, the renewal fee will depend on the characteristics of the venue.

A copy of the updated renewal fee table is enclosed.

You should shortly receive your invoice for the 2024 renewal fees. If you have any queries in relation to what is received, please do not please do not hesitate to contact BSP Lawyers to discuss.

In relation to the application fees for any amendments to your liquor licence, the following changes have occurred:

  1. Application fees will now vary for some licences based on the patron capacity, or for some licences a floor area metric. The result is that applications for larger venues will have a higher application fee than applications for smaller venues.
  2. In addition, applications that are ostensibly more complicated to determine may also have higher application fees even where the patron capacity metric remains the same.
    For example, a restaurant with <200 patrons is subject to a $477 application fee, whereas a late-night (on premises) licence with < 200 patrons will have a $1,192.50 application fee.
  3. The application fee for major event licences have significantly increased.

The most up to date liquor licence application fees can be found here.

CCTV Cameras

These regulations also include a change to requirements for security cameras at a licensed premises.

Where security cameras are required as a condition of the licence, security cameras must now continuously record a minimum rate of 8 frames per second and video recording must record at least eight images per second for each security camera connect to the video recorder. This was previously 5 frames per second and 5 images per second.

As the Regulations have effect as of 29 July 2023 all venue operators should review their security camera systems to ensure they are compliant, and if necessary upgrade those systems. If venues do not upgrade their systems then they may be subject to an infringement or other enforcement action.

New Ministerial Guidelines for Late Night Liquor Licences in Inner Melbourne Municipalities

The previous ‘freeze’ on the grant of late night licences which had been in place since 2012 for inner city municipalities has now been abolished as at 30 June 2023.

New Ministerial Guidelines have now been introduced for applications for liquor licences that trade after 1:00 am (the Guidelines), which apply in the Melbourne, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Yarra local government areas.

The Guidelines apply to any applications for the grant, relocation or variation of the following licence types:

  • General;
  • On Premises;
  • Late night (general, on-premises); and
  • Limited (temporary and renewable).

These Guidelines require certain matters to be considered by the Commission in the context of risk profile of the application, including patron capacity of the venue, trading hours (for example, venues that close at 2:00 am and those that close at 3:00 am or later) and compliance history.

In the case of an application to grant, relocate or vary a late night (general or on-premises) licence, the Commission must also consider any existing licence conditions and may impose new licence conditions to manage the risk of alcohol-related harm and amenity loss.

The Commission must also consider:

  • the compliance history at the premises and history of adherence to all appropriate noise management requirements as outlined in the Environmental Protection Regulations 2021;
  • harm minimisation practices at the venue; and
  • whether the venue has a plan to prevent and respond to gender based violence, including sexual harassment developed in consultation with their representatives.

We note that the previous Late Night Freeze Guidelines were substantially more restrictive in what they allowed. They started off with a blanket prohibition with some exemptions. The new Guidelines contain a more detailed set of application criteria without being inherently restrictive.

As such, these new Guidelines create the opportunity for venues in these inner city municipalities to extend their liquor licence hours beyond 1:00 am. In particular for venues that may not have previously met the relevant exemption criteria – including venue size, or the provision of live music. That said, we can expect that the Commission will rigorously assess such applications and apply a strict consideration as to whether the application is in accordance with the objects of the Act.

Please contact our office for advice in relation to any increase of trading hours so that we may consider the characteristics of your venue accordingly.

Gambling reforms to be introduced by the Victorian Government

As you would all be aware, the Victorian Government recently announced a range of gambling reforms with an aim to reduce gambling harm and money laundering at venues, which include mandatory pre-commitment limits and carded play, changes to the spin rate, the introduction of load up limits and and increases in compulsory closure hours for venues.

The Government indicated there would be a consultative period prior to implementation of these changes.

The Government have now released a consultation paper headed “Pre-Commitment and Carded Play”. We attach a copy of same.

The Government indicates that the purpose of this consultation period is to better understand the implications of implementing these major reforms, including benefits, risks and costs of different options. The outcomes of this consultation will inform recommendations to Government on the legislative framework for carded play and changes need to implement mandatory precommitment, load up limits and spin rates.

Within the paper is a comprehensive list of questions relating to the above issues, and the government has indicated that submissions can be made up until 20 September 2023.

We would recommend any gambling venue to peruse the attached and make any relevant submissions.

Please do not hesitate to contact BSP Lawyers if you wish to discuss any such submission.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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