First published in the NZ Herald, 16 December 2013.
The "Don't be a 'cool' Dad" publicity campaign is a high-profile
reminder currently on our televisions that a significant number of changes to
existing alcohol laws will come into effect on 18 December 2013.
But businesses will need to be aware the changes relate to more than the sale
and supply of alcohol to minors. Discounts, promotions and trading hours all
feature in the changes – with a new "three strikes and you're out" policy
threatening the liquor licenses of those who fall foul of the new rules.
The reforms are focused on changing the way we drink, in an effort to
decrease the harm caused by excessive and inappropriate consumption of alcohol.
The amendments will have significant implications for consumers and particularly
for those who provide alcohol in the course of their business.
The changes are focussed on reducing inappropriate drinking by controlling
the promotion and advertisement of alcohol. An array of promotion types are
considered to be irresponsible promotion under the Act. For example, the public
advertisement of alcohol which suggests a discount of 25% or more off standard
retail price is (subject to some exceptions) illegal under the amendments. This
prohibits two for one offers, buy two get the third free offers and any similar
promotions which can be seen or heard outside of licensed premises. Promotions
involving an opportunity to win a prize when alcohol is bought are also illegal,
as are advertisements with 'special appeal' to minors and anything else that is
likely to encourage people to consume to an excessive extent. Fines and the
suspension of licenses apply where these rules are breached.
As examples of the restrictions in the real world, promotions offering a
'free alcoholic beverage' when dining cannot be run and degustation or set menus
that include alcohol will need to ensure that any discount on the retail price
of wine is less than 25%.
Where the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority finds that irresponsible
promotion has occurred, the new "three strikes" policy applies so that licensees
or managers with three negative holdings within a three year period will have
their license cancelled. The Licensing Authority decision is made by majority
vote following any relevant investigations and their decision may then be
appealed to the High Court.
The role of local authorities under the proposed changes is significantly
increased, as they will now be able to produce local alcohol policies to provide
guidance as to the areas in which licensed premises may be located, maximum
trading hours, and other measures to control alcohol use such as one-way door
policies. Individuals and businesses will have the opportunity to submit on the
draft policy and a public hearing will be held into matters raised in those
Where no maximum trading hours are specified in the local alcohol policy,
bars and clubs will now be required to close at 4am and supermarkets and other
retailers will be prohibited from selling alcohol before 7am and after 11pm.
Applications for liquor licenses will be made to a new body called the
District Licensing Committee comprising three members (including one
chairperson) appointed by the territorial authority. Objections to applications
for licences may be made by those with an interest in the application which is
greater than the general public. This will include neighbours to proposed
licensed premises. A number of factors are considered in deciding whether to
grant a licence including whether the amenity and good order of the locality
would be likely to be reduced by the effects of the issue of the licence.
Matters such as noise, nuisance and vandalism will all be relevant to this
inquiry. The decision of the Licensing Committee may be appealed to the
In addition to these amendments, one of the more highly publicised aspects of
the new regime is the changes relating to the sale and supply of alcohol to
minors. In particular, the requirement to obtain the express consent of a
child's parents in order to supply them with alcohol has been the subject of
some commentary in terms of how this can be communicated (ie. orally or in
writing), and subsequently evidenced. In addition to this, anyone who supplies
alcohol to minors, including to their own child or with express parental
consent, must supply the alcohol in a "responsible manner". To comply with this
requirement parents should ensure that adequate supervision is provided, that
non-alcoholic beverages and food are available and that provision is made for
safe transport. Parents should also be cautious about the length of time the
minors are drinking and the type of alcohol being consumed.
The effect of these changes will be wide reaching - parents, businesses, and
the general public will all be impacted by the amendments. It will be some time
until the reforms have fully taken effect and their success can properly be
This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.