Licensed To Serve
Starting up a new business is a monumental undertaking. Working out which licences you need to open the doors and what you’ve got to do to stay on top is tedious but critical. Use this food and beverage licence checklist to make sure you’re all geared up to get serving.
What type of licence is needed?
The first thing you need to do is to work out what type of licence you want to apply for. If you are serving alcohol, licences vary across restaurants, hotels, general bars, small bars, packaged liquor (like a bottle shop or online sales) and nightclubs—to name a few. But there’s also limited licences for single functions or special events. Doing your research well in advance will help you pinpoint exactly which one will cover you across the board.
There are also times when a liquor licence is not required, such as the exemption for a non-profit organisation. In some cases, bed and breakfast businesses may also be exempt.
Where to start?
Each licence comes with its own limitations, requirements and applied laws that vary from state to state.
Checking the Australian Business Licence and Information Service is a good first step. This website is part of the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science, and can give advice on what government licences or registrations apply to your proposed business. It’s also a great indication of the state, territory, local and Australian government-imposed laws relevant to your business. To put it all into place, this guide also gives you access to the various forms and resources required.
Don’t make it hard on yourself. Talk to similar businesses in your area as well, and even discuss licences with your suppliers.
Undertake licensee training
Some states expect all licensee applicants to undertake training before a licence will be considered. Training covers the legislative environment for liquor licensees, understanding your licence and best practice. For example, if you are in Victoria, all individuals, partners and at least one director, must undertake Licensees’ First Step Course. To find out more about this step, details about Queensland’s mandatory Responsible Management of Licensed Venues training can be found here.
Check with your local government
While the relevant authorities regulate location, local governments often have an input. It’s worth checking with the relevant body or council to see if there is a particular party in control of the licences you need.
Consult with your local community
As a potential licence holder, it is your responsibility to talk to local community members about any concerns people have with your application and proposed plans. This particularly applies to liquor licensing, but it’s a good rule of thumb for any application. Community support will make obtaining a licence an easier process if you can acknowledge and mitigate any potential issues or impact on the local community.
Prepare a Community Impact Statement (CIS)
Many state authorities require the submission of a CIS with a licensing application. Authorities will consider the general well-being of the greater community and the social impact of approval of a license in that location. Aspects considered include the type of licensed premises applied for, its scale, size, layout and capacity, the trading hours proposed, and its location.
If there are any specific measures you are planning on undertaking to reduce potential social issues, such as a Security Management Plan, this is the place to point that out.
Train all staff
When it comes to liquor licensing, ensure staff are familiar with the Act and laws relevant to the service of alcohol in that state, including when they can serve alcohol, to whom and if food must also be consumed. Since it is a crime in most states now to serve alcohol to intoxicated people, it is imperative staff are trained in strategies to overcome this issue.
Keep your licence handy
Once any licence has been granted, make sure it is always on hand for immediate inspection by the relevant agency. There is nothing worse than scrambling for paperwork in the middle of service, when you could just point to the certificate on your storeroom wall.
Stay on top of changing laws
Finally, once you are licensed to serve, make sure you stay that way. Follow regulations and remember that laws are often reviewed— keep up to date with training and regularly check your local state licensing authority’s website.
About the Author
Lana de Kort is a published author and business writer with over 20 years experience working with industry, commerce and community. In 2014 she co-founded a network of over 21 writers across Australia.