Many Australians don't mind the odd quiet – or rowdy – drink. So it can be a tough line to tread between responsible service of alcohol and being a party-pooper.

The difficulties are compounded when you’re often relying on transient, part-time staff to comply.

But if you’re a licensed premises it’s imperative your business sticks to the rules, otherwise a huge fine, or even worse, could be on its way. 

Penalties vary between states and territories but, for example, simply failing to display appropriate signage in clear view maycan cost a Queensland venue $3,263. In Victoria, a court maycan slap your business with a $19,343 penalty for supplying alcohol to an intoxicated person.  

Here we look at a few recent incidents to explore the most common issues that land licensed businesses in trouble*.

Irresponsible service of alcohol

Serving alcohol to a minor or an intoxicated person is a common offence with very costly, sometimes deadly, consequences. 

In 2015, a South Australian hotel and its manager were fined $40,000 and $10,000 respectively after serving a drunk patron who died in a car crash on the way home. 

Venues can also face civil action launched by victims and their families. A Tasmanian motor inn was successfully sued in 2009 by the widow of a man who was killed in a road accident after the publican handed over the drunk man's motorbike keys. 

Fortunately, poor decision making from employees is something you may be able tocan guard against with management liability insurance.

Simply removing a patron from your venue can be problematic too. Earlier this year, a Sydney restaurant was fined $2,200 by police for leaving two unconscious women on the street after serving them 16 shots of Soju within 40 minutes. 

The restaurant faces further sanctions from the NSW's Liquor and Gaming Authority whose director of compliance operations told the ABC: "it's hard to imagine a worse case of a venue failing in its obligations to prevent misuse and abuse of alcohol.”

Disturbances and violence

Take a look at key decisions made by Liquor & Gaming NSW and you'll see disturbances are a very common problem for licensed venues. 

Venues are frequently investigated for ‘“unduly disturbing’” the ‘“quiet and good order’” of their neighbourhood and can be required to reduce opening hours in certain parts of their premises, undertake remedial works and deploy security staff, all of which can be expensive and inflict significant opportunity costs.

Alcohol-related violence on premises, meanwhile, is commonly met with fines, precinct-wide lock-out laws, trading hours being cut back, or licences being revoked – not to mention serious and costly reputational damage for your business.

And violence can occur in even the most unassuming of places – recently a Brisbane karaoke restaurant licensee was fined $40,000 after an “extremely violent” brawl broke out.

“Venues are frequently investigated for ‘unduly disturbing’ the ‘quiet and good order’ of their neighbourhood and can be required to reduce opening hours in certain parts of their premises, undertake remedial works and deploy security staff, all of which can be expensive ”

Advertising

Inappropriate advertising can get your licensed venue in a spot of trouble too, as one Newcastle pub discovered earlier this year after advertising a competition encouraging patrons to “win their height” in vodka drinks. 

“This promotion posed an unacceptable risk of excessive alcohol consumption,” the state's director of compliance operations Sean Goodchild told the Newcastle Herald

Most states and territories also have licensee restrictions on 'happy hour' promotions, raffles, theme nights and prizes. So it pays to check before you get too generous. 

 

Mitigating risk

Even if you're doing everything in your power to reduce these risks, the fact is: an untrained or rogue employee/ or patron, an irresponsible nearby venue, or a simple mistake can prove very costly for a licensed venue. 

This is why it's important to have a good business insurance solution in place – like public liability, management liability, business interruption and events insurance

Whilst, insurance is only part of the solution you should also consider having with robust risk management, compliance and training.

For expert advice on the best insurance solutions for your business, talk to your Steadfast broker. 

*All examples are based on specific circumstances to the particular situation which may vary from situation to situation.

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