Selling alcohol is expensive

To sell alcohol to the public, you need a liquor licence. To get a liquor licence, there’s not only a lot of paperwork, but there’s a fair amount of time and money you need to spend. There are liquor consultants who will do this all for you, however they do charge handsomely for this convenience.

In December 2012, a whole raft of changes came into the legislation (originally issued in 1989). Some of these changes included:

  • The annual fee is now based on a few factors such as your size, what time you close and how many past infringements you’ve had. I think this is a much fairer system as my fee shouldn’t be the same as a much larger pub that’s primary product is alcohol.
  • The community has more of a say in the granting of licences – through local alcohol policies, things such as the trading hours, location, density and conditions of a liquor licence can all be set
  • Maximum hours were set, on-licences can close no later than 4am, off-licences no later than 11pm (no more 24 hour licences)
  • The ambiguity around the availability of water is now completely clear – before, a premises had to have water available, but there was a grey area around whether they could charge for it. Now it has to be a proper water station, free, and easily available to the public
  • Having a fake ID and giving someone your ID knowing they’ll use it is now an offence
  • More clarity around where and how you can promote alcohol (free alcohol and discount of 25% or more are not allowed)

The café’s been licenced since 2011, with this year being the first year we’ve had to do a renewal.

When we first applied, one of my biggest frustrations was the building and planning certificates that are required. They cost $900 to do, and the previous café owner already had them – we were unable to use these however as they weren’t issued in our company name. Not only did we have to reapply and get granted those documents, but the documents (floor plans, resource consents etc) we need to submit to the council to get the certificates, the council already had, and charged for me to retrieve. In essence, I was paying to retrieve, photocopy and give back documents the council already had stored on file. Not helpful.

Another part of the process is the public notifications. In the café we need to have a notice stuck to the window that we are applying for a liquor licence, plus had to advertise the fact in the Herald, twice. Cost to do this: $600.

Even once you have a liquor licence, you must have at least one general manager on site at all times; they make sure that the conditions of your licence are being adhered to. To get your duty manager’s certificate, you need to have your LCQ (this is a NZQA qualification) and go for an interview with the council. If you forget to renew this before it expires, you have to start the whole process from scratch. Total cost: $550 per staff member.

Being licenced is an expensive undertaking, and we primarily do it for private functions (we do sell the odd beer/wine over lunch). When hosting something after hours, everyone wants to have a beer/cider/wine to celebrate, and we wouldn’t get any of these functions without the liquor licence.

With all its administration hassle, I am very, very grateful that the licencing process only comes around once every three years.