Section 155 of the Liquor Act has been around in its current form for ages. It creates the offence of allowing an underage person on licensed premises, which carries significant maximum penalties – 100 penalty units ($130.55 per unit = $13,055 for individuals, multiplied by 5 for companies). It is also one of the offences which attracts on-the-spot fines. We had a client cop one of these recently when a couple of minors managed to sneak into his detached bottleshop while staff were distracted – $1100 (2014 penalty).
The way the section works is that it first states the offence, then creates a series of exemptions to it. Most people are aware, for example, that if a minor is accompanied by a responsible adult, then that’s OK. Well, mostly OK, the exemption isn’t available after 5pm in a nightclub. Other exemptions cover minors working at the premises or doing work experience, minors residing on the premises and minors eating a meal. The whole section is extracted below this article.
So what’s changed? Over the last couple of weeks we have have received a number of calls from clients who have been visited by OLGR compliance officers who have been ‘reminding’ them that if a minor comes into the premises to purchase takeaway food, or to have a coffee or milkshake, then that’s a breach of section 155 unless the licensee has made application for and received a specific approval from OLGR. In recent years we have all seen the emergence and growth of our cafe culture, and young people enjoying a skinny cap or triple shot soy latte etc. However, more and more of these venues have become licensed and when the year 11 or 12 student pops in for their morning fix before school the licensee, inadvertently, has a problem.
The other common scenario is take away food. Many licensees don’t realise that if Mum sends her 15 year old in to pick up the food, the licensee commits an offence by allowing the minor on the premises.
Fortunately, there’s a solution. The list of exemptions in section 155 includes paragraph (e) which is in the following terms:
the minor is on the premises for a purpose, and in circumstances, approved by the commissioner or stated in a condition of the licence or permit;
Although for some time now OLGR officers have not been focussing on this area, that’s clearly changed, and we are presently arranging this exemption for a number of clients. The cost is minimal, so if your customers include young people and you neither wish to exclude them nor risk a fine you should call us for assistance.
Relevant section from the Liquor Act 1992
155 Minors on premises
(1) This section applies to all minors other than an exempt minor.
(2) A licensee, permittee or person in control of the premises to which the licence or permit relates must ensure that a minor is not on the premises.
(3) Also, an employee or agent of the licensee or permittee must not allow a minor to enter the premises to which the licence or permit relates.
(3A) If a minor is on the premises, each of the following persons commits an offence—
(a) the licensee or permittee;
(b) if another person is in control of the premises—the other person;
(c) if an employee or agent of the licensee or permittee allowed the minor to enter the premises—the employee or agent.
Maximum penalty—100 penalty units.
(4) In this section—
exempt minor means a minor on premises to which a licence or permit relates if—
(a) the minor is a resident on the premises; or
(b) the minor is on the premises to—
(i) perform duties as an employee of the owner, or occupier, of the premises or a part of the premises; or
(ii) perform duties in the conduct of a lawful business; or
(iii) perform duties while receiving training for employment or work experience; or
(c) the minor is attending a function being held on the premises; or
(d) the premises are premises to which a community club licence, community other licence, craft beer producer permit or restricted liquor permit relates and the minor’s presence does not contravene the club’s rules or a condition of the licence or permit; or
(e) the minor is on the premises for a purpose, and in circumstances, approved by the commissioner or stated in a condition of the licence or permit; or
(f) the minor—
(i) is eating a meal on the premises; or
(ii) is accompanied by a responsible adult who is responsibly supervising the minor.
(5) However, a minor is not an exempt minor merely because the minor is eating a meal on the premises or accompanied by a responsible adult if—
(a) the minor is on premises after 5p.m.; and
(b) the licence for the premises is a nightclub licence.
This article was updated on 8 November 2018 to reflect the current value of the penalty unit and a change to the rules regarding nightclub licences.