Alcohol licensing: Police Opposition to Licence Applications

16 February 2021

Under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the Act), the Police must look into alcohol licence applications and file a report with the District Licensing Committee (DLC) within 15 working days if they have matters in opposition to the application.[1] DLCs are committees appointed by local authorities to consider and determine alcohol licence applications.

The Act does not propose the matters the Police must include in their report but any matters included must be relevant to the licence application.

On occasion, we have seen the Police file reports which include allegations that the licensee has committed offences under the Act while operating licensed premises. While that information is clearly relevant to a DLC’s decision whether to grant or renew a licence, we believe there are issues with that approach.

One issue is that the Act already provides a mechanism for the Police to take enforcement action if they believe that licensed premises have been conducted in breach of any provision of the Act — which is by application to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA).[2] The Act also states that it is a function of ARLA, and not DLCs, to consider and determine enforcement applications filed by the Police.[3]

Since the introduction of the Act, ARLA has established a wealth of knowledge on the law surrounding enforcement applications and we consider it is best placed to assess and determine whether a licensee has breached a provision of the Act and committed an offence. ARLA issued two decisions in 2019 restating that a DLC is a creature of statute and must not go on frolics of its own outside of its statutory jurisdiction.[4]

While the Act does not necessarily prohibit a DLC from considering allegations in a Police report while hearing an application to renew a licence, in our view, a DLC would be venturing into murky waters if it made any adverse findings against a licensee in those circumstances and may open itself to appeal or review.

If you experience alcohol licensing issues of any kind, you can contact our team for expert legal advice and representation to help you navigate the increasingly complex alcohol licensing process.

[1] Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, s 103(3). One effect of the modification under the Epidemic Preparedness (Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 — Licence Application Inquiries) Immediate Modification Order 2020, which came into effect on 17 April 2020, is that the time for reporting by the Police and Medical Officers of Health is doubled from 15 to 30 working days, which time does not commence until the date the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 expires or is revoked. The principal notice has been renewed three times since it came into force on 25 March 2020 and the current renewal is due to expire on 22 March 2021.

[2] Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, s 280.

[3] Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, s 170(d) and s 187.

[4] Re Pernod Ricard Winemakers New Zealand Ltd [2019] NZARLA 50, Hawkes Bay Commercial Travellers Association Inc v Earnshaw Holdings Limited [2019] NZARLA 55.

Simon Middlemiss is part of our Commercial Disputes & Employment team at Norris Ward McKinnon.

Commercial Disputes & Employment Team