Thursday 3 October 2019

Special licences

Whenever a Rugby World Cup is on, Parliament has to legislate around the bureaucratic hurdles that District Licensing Committees have put in the way of issuing special licences.

Special licenses are supposed to allow bars to open at hours other than their normal licensed hours, if there's some kind of special event on. And Parliament even noted international sporting events in the rationale for the special licences.

Aimee Dartnall goes through the problems in how that works in practice:
Generally, applying for a special licence is a bureaucratic nightmare. First, applicants must contrive a special "event", and charge people to attend.

Then they need to file an application at least 20 working days before the event to give the police, the medical officer of health and the licensing inspector time to report on the application. Fees can cost up to $575.

Once the application has been reported on, it goes to the local district licensing committee for a decision.

The problem is that some DLCs agonise over whether a World Cup game can be legally classified as an "event". Some applications were refused on the basis that a World Cup game is not an "event" unless organisers host proper viewing parties, with raffles, streamers or guest speakers. 
It's nonsense that it's all come to this. If you read the Committee Report on the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, special licences were intended to be used for international sporting events.
118. In response to concerns around champagne breakfasts and international sporting events outside the maximum hours, we recommend amending the Bill to permit special licences outside the maximum hours. Special licences may only be issued for a particular event or series of events, and should therefore permit such occasions without creating a way for licensees to remain open outside maximum hours on a business-as-usual basis.
These things were designed as a way of letting bars stay open during international sporting events. The fact of the international sporting event was supposed to have been enough for it to be classified as an "event". And yet we have to have Parliament legislate around the DLCs whenever there's a World Cup on.

Dartnall has a few suggestions:
The special licence rules need to be changed permanently to get rid of unnecessary hurdles and bring the focus back on harm minimisation.

Existing licensees shouldn't need to apply for special licences for every World Cup match – they already have responsible supply rules in place. 

Applications shouldn't turn on arbitrary requirements such as the need for a special "event". 

The nature of the event is only relevant as an indicator of the risk profile. A special licence for a 21st party will need to be scrutinised more carefully than an application for drinks at a gallery opening. But the number of balloons in the building has nothing to do with alcohol-related harm. 

The World Cup amendments are a step in the right direction. But please, extend the rules to cover the netball too.  
That all sounds good, but how do you legislate that a DLC must be sensible?

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