Since the passing of the Liquor Act 1992, Queensland has seen substantial change, not the least of which is the growth in the hospitality and dining sector. Queenslanders, and visitors to the Sunshine State, have embraced the al-fresco dining experience and it is not uncommon for a restaurant, cafe, or bar to have most, or even all, of its seating outdoors. However, for as long as we can remember (and that is a long time) the following standard condition has been endorsed on liquor licences in Queensland:
LL253 – Speakers used to amplify entertainment/music noise or non-amplified entertainers must not be located in any outdoor/patio area of the premises.
Of course, many premises with outdoor seating have speakers in their outdoor areas. Where these speakers are providing background music, they have little negative effect on residents or businesses nearby, and receive limited attention from OLGR or police, despite clearly contravening a condition of the licence. However, when noise from the speakers causes complaints, the regulator need only refer to this condition to compel the licensee to remove them.
Recently, OLGR have adopted a policy which will see this condition only endorsed on new licences when justified by specific circumstances. Whilst OLGR have provided no definitive guidance, applicants for new liquor licences who are not providing an acoustic report, and will therefore be subject to the standard noise limit of 75dB(C), will generally not have the condition endorsed on the licence.
For licensees with the standard condition currently endorsed, the options are a little more complex. If the premises are operated in contravention of the condition, that is, with speakers or entertainers in outdoor areas, and have not been the subject of complaints, it’s unlikely that anything will change in terms of enforcement action by OLGR or Police. This notwithstanding, it is clearly risky to ignore licence conditions, and not something most licensees would contemplate. The on-the-spot fine for a breach of a licence condition is 5 penalty units ($667 in 2021).
To have the condition changed requires a “variation of licence”. A variation application in its complete form is quite complex and an OLGR representative has told us that applications of this type would be dealt with in the usual way. However, we believe there is an argument to have the more onerous requirements waived in almost all cases, reducing the costs and processing times significantly. If you want to know more about this option, our consultants are available to look at any licensee’s individual circumstances and provide obligation-free advice.