Upcoming changes to sale of alcohol legislation are brewing

wine and tapas on table linked to changes in liquor licensing for wineries nz
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Some upcoming amendments to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (Act) could have some big implications for anyone looking to obtain or renew a licence.

Community participation in alcohol regulation

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Amendment Act 2023 was passed just prior to the election last year, and comes into effect on 31 May this year. The Act makes some changes to local alcohol policies, which are set by councils to determine where and when alcohol can be sold by businesses, including how many shops there are and their proximity to places such as schools. It also makes changes to the process for licence applications.

Specifically, the amendment:

  • removes the ability for parties to appeal provisional local alcohol policies;
  • removes the ability to cross-examine at alcohol licensing hearings, as a result of feedback that licensing hearings can be adversarial and intimidating;
  • allows any person or group to object to a licence application, with a narrow exception for trade competitors, whereas previously only a small group of people with specific interests could object; and
  • extends the timeframe for objecting, to give people more time to prepare evidence.

Cellar door tastings

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Cellar Door Tasting) Amendment Bill is still making its way through Parliament, but once passed this amendment will simplify the rules that apply to winery cellar doors and make it easier for them to charge for the samples they serve to visitors. The bill would also allow winery cellar doors to concurrently hold both an off-licence and an on-licence.

This amendment will:

  • allow wineries to charge for sample tasting, with sample sizes restricted to a maximum pour of 35 millilitres;
  • require winery cellar doors that charge for tasting to also provide a reasonable range of snack food for sale and consumption, to ensure host responsibility; and
  • require winery cellar doors that charge for tasting to make drinking water freely available at a designated place (a requirement already in place for free tastings).

This amendment will only apply to wineries. Craft breweries and distilleries that also conduct tastings may want to ask Parliament to extend this in the future.

Easter trading

Following on from another Easter where some businesses breached the Easter trading laws while others complied and missed potential business, another bill to amend the Easter trading laws has been introduced to Parliament. 

The Repeal of Good Friday and Easter Sunday as Restricted Trading Days (Shop Trading and Sale of Alcohol) Amendment Bill is a member’s bill, so was not introduced by the government, and it is not yet known whether the government will support it to become law. If it does, the Bill would remove the restriction on trading and selling alcohol on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Legislation along these lines has been introduced before and not succeeded, so it remains to be seen whether this will lead to change.

How will this affect you?

The changes to the licencing process and requirements will make it even more important to get a lawyer involved at an early stage. 

The removal of the ability to cross-examine in a licensing hearing, coupled with more people entitled to have their say, means that the applicant will need to be well prepared for the hearing, pre-empting any differing views.  We are able to assist to ensure fairness in the hearing process leads to a good outcome in the process, as well as facilitating essential discussions with reporting agencies (or objectors) prior to the hearing.

If you have any questions about the new legislation, or about obtaining or renewing your licence, please contact Nick Laing, a partner in our specialist hospitality licensing practice.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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