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Intoxicated pubgoers would not be booted onto the pavement and standard Sunday alcohol trading hours would be extended to midnight under potential liquor licensing reforms.
New incentives would be offered to venues hosting live music, while development and liquor licence applications would be streamlined into a single process under suggested changes to NSW licensing laws being put to industry stakeholders.
Liquor licensing laws are set to undergo their first major review since they were introduced in 2007.Credit:Dean Sewell
A discussion paper canvassing the possible reforms comes ahead of the first major review of laws governing the service of alcohol in NSW pubs, clubs, restaurants, retail and takeaway stores in 15 years.
Liquor licence reform was a key commitment of the state government’s 24-Hour Economy Strategy for Greater Sydney, released in September 2020 after six years of crippling lockout laws killed off numerous inner-city hospitality and entertainment venues.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought further pain for Sydney’s once-thriving watering holes and eateries, many of which did not survive the more than two years of on-again, off-again lockdowns.
Minister for Hospitality and Racing Kevin Anderson said the government’s proposed reforms would ultimately reduce licensing costs and make it easier to do business using a digital single-entry point on the Service NSW platform.
Pubs faced lengthy closures during pandemic lockdowns.Credit:Getty
“The new model aligns planning and liquor licensing approval processes, reduces overlap and duplication. It will also adopt a ‘licence builder’ approach, to enable licensees to expand and diversify their offerings, through extensions that can then be added to a basic licence,” he said.
Liquor and Gaming NSW, which produced the discussion paper, said aligning liquor licensing and planning approvals was part of its long-term vision for a single development and liquor licence application process.
Between December 2019 and October 2021, it took an average of 75 days for a development consent for a cafe or restaurant to be granted, while in 2021, the average number of days to process an on-premises liquor licence was 51 days.
To support businesses operating in the 24-hour economy, the options paper suggests “harm reduction areas” in licensed venues, to avoid intoxicated patrons being removed from the premises while they are vulnerable.
Other suggested changes include the introduction of improvement notices for licensees to rectify any licence breaches before being issued with a penalty.

There are currently more than 18,500 active liquor licences for NSW producers, restaurants, cafes, pubs, registered clubs, nightclubs, entertainment venues and packaged liquor retailers.
The government committed earlier this year to retaining a raft of relaxed rules introduced during the pandemic, such as takeaway alcohol services, alfresco dining and 24-hour retail, with estimates they would boost the state’s economy by more than $3 billion in the next decade.
Australian Hotels Association NSW Director of Liquor and Policing John Green said alfresco options for hospitality venues had been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, adding that trading conditions had changed forever.
“The work of the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner and Advisory Group has led to greater collaborations between business, government and stakeholders. It’s hoped that this will continue,” he said.
Angus McPherson, managing director of alcohol company Diageo Australia, added that it was critical that regulations matched changes to the way people socialise and entertain.
“What was borne out of necessity actually revealed untapped opportunity for the industry, and, in the same way, that the way we live and work has forever changed as a result of the pandemic,” he said.
NSW Labor has argued strongly for reforms to liquor and planning laws to reshape entertainment and nightlife, and will release its plan for the sector closer to the state election.
Opposition nighttime economy and music spokesman John Graham said after a decade beset by lockout laws and lockdown laws, there was still more work required to bring entertainment and a thriving nightlife back to the city.
“We want to make it easier to run a venue right across the state. It’s possible in other states. It’s definitely possible in NSW.”
The discussion paper will be available online for feedback from the public and industry stakeholders.
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