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Attention Hoteliers – Why the new Liquor Guideline concerns you

As seen in the September Edition of the QHA Review.

As you may have already heard, there is a new kid on the block – or rather, a new liquor guideline to add to the list - Guideline 51: Preparing an acoustic report (the new Guideline). As of 1 July 2019, the new Guideline replaces Guideline 50: Acoustic Consultants, bringing some changes that licensees should be both wary of and excited about.

The new Guideline assists in the preparation of acoustic reports by acoustic engineers or consultants to ensure that venues do not produce ‘unreasonable noise’ which may affect nearby business and residences. The new guideline stipulates minimum standards for the assessment and management of noise as well as minimum qualifications that an acoustic consultant must hold. It is therefore relevant to all licensed premises that are looking to provide amplified or non-amplified entertainment including music, or venues that simply draw a rowdy crowd of excitable patrons who together can be heard from on the street. Acoustic reports by qualified sound engineers or acoustic consultants are also generally required when applying to vary or remove a current noise condition on your licence.

Standard noise condition trend

Over the last few years, we have witnessed a trend of new and varied liquor licences being endorsed with a standard noise condition limiting all amplified and non-amplified noise to 75dB(C) (when measured three metres from the source) where no acoustic report is provided. For those familiar with noise readings, you will already know that this particular noise limit often leaves a lot to be desired, as patron noise and low level background music commonly exceed this limit without any help from other entertainment sources.

The new Guideline solidifies this practice, and therefore limits flexibility around providing any kind of entertainment without having tailored noise conditions endorsed on the licence resulting from premises-specific acoustic testing. Acoustic testing is especially relevant for venues with beer gardens, alfresco dining, and any other outdoor areas where speakers or live entertainment is likely to be provided. This is because open air areas are more likely to be a catalyst for complaints about unreasonable noise in comparison to enclosed areas, as they are unable to contain sound to the same standard.

External noise setting

Another new concept included in this guideline is the ability for noise levels to be set and monitored at locations external to your hotel, within 25 metres of the boundary of your venue, instead of just internally. Of course, this type of noise assessment may not be possible in instances where a hotel is located in a highly populated and therefore noisy area that might affect measurement data, such as entertainment precincts or shopping malls.

This is a significant benefit for licensees which will allow for greater flexibility to vary the level and type of noise within a venue. While this method has already been adopted for premises where noise cannot be reasonably measured from a short distance such as three metres, the inclusion of this practice in the new Guideline is likely to reduce the instance of having to seek liquor licence variations due to unreasonable noise. As usual, measures to mitigate noise must still be adopted to ensure that the externally-set levels are not exceeded.

Noise mitigation measures which may assist in obtaining lower noise readings while entertainment is being provided during your acoustic testing may mean simply closing doors and windows, repositioning speakers in such a way that noise does not escape your hotel, or installing temporary or permanent sound proofing.

Acoustic planning

Whether you are building a new venue, planning to update your existing hotel or are in the market for a new acquisition, now more than ever, you will need to seek the advice of a qualified acoustic engineer to assist with the acoustic design of your venue.

Obtaining the advice of a qualified acoustic engineer prior to building or renovating your hotel could be the difference between bringing your vision for an entertainment venue to life, and receiving testing levels too low to sustain live music or even a bustling dancefloor. For this reason, we cannot stress enough the importance of enlisting the help of a qualified acoustic engineer or consultant from the early stages of your build to assist with designing and planning appropriate noise limiting measures in order to achieve the best outcome possible for your venue.

If you have recently commissioned acoustic testing at your hotel – don’t fret – the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation will continue to accept reports prepared under Guideline 50 until 31 December 2019. However, if you want to take advantage of the revised methodologies explained under the new Guideline such as external noise setting, we recommend that you explore the potential benefits with a qualified consultant.

If you require any additional information in relation to these changes or assistance varying your licence conditions, please contact Curt Schatz on 07 3224 0230.

Article written by Curt Schatz (Managing Partner) and Frances Kelly (Solicitor). 

"The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication."