As seen in the April 2021 edition of Queensland Hotels Association’s QHA Review magazine.
In last month’s edition of QHA Review I wrote about interim authorities and special authorisations, which allow a person to sell liquor and to conduct gaming at a particular venue, before that person has been approved for a transfer of a liquor licence and/ or the grant of a gaming machine licence.
As mentioned, this may happen in a variety of situations where someone other than the licensee (e.g. a landlord or liquidator) needs to temporarily trade the venue as a stop-gap measure to preserve the value of the underlying business.
But what if a person is unable to trade, and cannot find someone else to trade, under the licence? For example, what if the premises is severely damaged by fire and cannot reopen for some time? Or, if a licensee tenant vacates and the landlord obtains a transfer of the licence as an interim measure, but then does not want to trade the premises themselves until they find a replacement tenant to take over the licences and operate the licensed business?
A risk in these situations is that if the licensee has ceased to conduct business on the licensed premises, then OLGR has the power to take certain disciplinary action which could include cancellation of the licences. This power arises under s 136(f) of the Liquor Act 1992 and s 97(1)(a)(i) of the Gaming Machine Act 1992. Of course, this could have a disastrous impact for a licensee and/ or other interested parties, including landlords or liquidators.
Where there are legitimate reasons for temporarily ceasing trade, then to reduce the risk of losing a liquor and/ or gaming licence, it is advisable to get on the front-foot by seeking a licence suspension from OLGR. In doing so, the licensee should explain to OLGR why the premises has stopped trading, and should seek a suspension of the licence until the premises is able to reopen.
Licence suspensions will not be permitted to continue indefinitely but depending on the circumstances, OLGR may suspend the licence for up to six months at a time (sometimes longer). The licensee must then continue to keep OLGR updated as to any developments. If necessary, the licensee may need to apply for further extensions of the suspension or may need to request that OLGR lift the suspension once the premises can resume trading.
Should a licence be suspended at the time when the annual liquor licence fees fall due, then these fees must be paid to retain the licence as it stands. This includes that if the premises is approved for extended trading hours then the fee associated with the extended hours should also be paid to maintain those extended hours.
In the event that you need to temporarily cease trade on your licensed premises, it is important to communicate with OLGR at every step of the process to avoid disciplinary action. Of course, the Mullins Hospitality team is always here to assist you with any liquor licensing issues that arise, including licence applications, variations, extensions, transfers or suspensions. Should you have any questions about temporarily ceasing trade, or any other liquor and gaming matters, please do not hesitate to call me on (07) 3224 0230.