Map your steps

Your activity may include some or all steps below, depending on the capacity of the LDAT and partner community organisations.

The key steps involved in supporting communities to participate in liquor licensing processes are provided below as a useful starting point for developing your liquor licensing activity and informing your approach.

These steps provide an indicative guide only; it is important to tailor your approach to your local community.

Local Drug Action Teams may address liquor licensing in a number of ways, such as:

  • submitting an objection
  • encouraging and assisting local residents to submit their own objections
  • or working more broadly in the community to raise awareness of alcohol harms and the liquor licensing process.

Find out about new liquor licence applications

LDATs can find out about new liquor licence applications through the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) website. The current list of liquor licence applications is available here.

Most applicants for a licence, including general, on-premises, restaurant and café licences, are required to display a sign at the premises.

LDATs may wish to set up a system to monitor for new liquor licensing applications. Consider dividing up the work of monitoring among partner organisations in your LDAT. Some partners, such as police, may be in a position where their organisation must be notified about new applications.

Collect evidence to support your liquor licence objection

It is important to collect evidence to support your liquor licence objection.

To successfully make an objection to a liquor licence, you must be able to provide evidence that links an individual liquor licence to alcohol-related harms in your community.

As you collect evidence to support your liquor licence objection you will be building a profile of your community. LDATs can create local community profiles in advance, so they are ready to respond to potentially problematic licence applications as they arise. Being proactive and collecting evidence early is recommended so communities can make strong submissions, particularly when timeframes for community participation are short.

It is important to draw on expert opinion and research to support your liquor licence objection. You may wish to divide responsibility for collecting evidence with your partners. Some partners may be well placed to collect certain types of data.

Local data on the following areas can be useful as they are relevant to objections under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998:

  • health
  • injury
  • property damage
  • safety of the general public
  • pleasantness and attractiveness of the area (amenity).

Additional data to help build a community profile and support your liquor licence objection is outlined in Table 2.

Table 2: Evidence to support liquor licensing objections

Data What it is Why it is relevant
Liquor outlet density Liquor outlet density data provides information on:
• the number of licensed premises in your Local Government Area (LGA)
• the number of licensed premises in your LGA compared with other LGAs, including the Victorian and national average
• how the number of licensed premises has changed over time.
Victorian liquor licences can be found on the VCGLR website and sorted by location:
https://bit.ly/2DubgRu
They also provide an interactive map of the same:
www.geomaps.vcglr.vic.gov.au/Liquor/
If your community already has a high density of liquor outlets, especially in comparison to other LGAs, it will support your argument that adding another will increase harms from alcohol.

If your liquor outlet density has increased rapidly, you can argue that there has been an introduction of many new outlets and the impact of the outlets on the community needs to be determined before introducing another.
Trading hours A liquor licence permits alcohol sales only during certain hours. The hours of sale depend on the type of licence in question, and the licensing body’s discretion when granting the licence.

Some days are a special case for hours of sale, these include Anzac Day and Christmas Day.

The VCGLR provides a list of liquor licences by licence category, including late night:
https://bit.ly/2QuKGKS

They also provide an interactive map of the same:
www.geomaps.vcglr.vic.gov.au/LiquorByCategory/
If your community has many late-trading venues, adding another — either by extending the hours of a current venue, or licensing a new venue — could increase harms.

If your community does not have many late-trading venues, you may still be concerned about noise, litter, drink-driving, intoxicated behaviour, and violence that can be associated with late trading.
SEIFA rating Socio-economic indexes for areas (SEIFA) are produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). They map relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage.

For LDATs seeking more information, the ABS has produced a number of resources to explain how to use the indexes. You might want to start with the SEIFA basics [1] or the video tutorial introducing SEIFA.[2]
Communities with a lower socio-economic status experience more alcohol-related harms than more advantaged communities.

If your community’s SEIFA is low, then highlighting this in your objection can help demonstrate that your community is at higher risk of alcohol-related harms.
Community profiles and data There are a number of existing sources of information that can inform your community profile.

Your local council should have a profile of your area, which they may share with you. The ABS has also put together community profiles that include data such as educational attainment and population demographics.

You can download a community profile[3] for your LGA and postal area from the ABS website.
Harms from alcohol vary between communities for many complex and interconnected reasons.

Communities can be at increased risk of harms if they have a low educational attainment, limited employment opportunities, and lower relative socio-economic status. [4]
Rates of violence Rates of alcohol-related violence include assaults and family violence. Ideally these rates would be compared over time and between areas.

Your local police or council may have data on the rates of alcohol-related violence.
If your community is experiencing high rates of alcohol-related violence this is an important point to make in your objection.

However, caution should be taken in relying too heavily on ‘alcohol-related’ crimes. This is because rates are dependent on the police at the time recording such information. If it is available, crimes such as assaults and family violence tend to be under-reported.
Health outcomes Data on alcohol-attributable hospitalisations and and deaths in your LGA may be helpful to your submission. Consider approaching your local health care providers, such as hospitals, to find out if they collect data you can use.

You could also consider the Australian Institute of Health Welfare’s (AIHW) data on alcohol harms, [5] including health outcomes. The AIHW’s report on the impact of alcohol on Australia’s burden of disease and injury may also be relevant. [6]

You may also consider approaching treatment services that help people address their alcohol dependency.
Current rates of alcohol-attributable health issues in your community may be taken into consideration when the licence is being decided on.

It can support the argument that increasing the availability of alcohol, either by increasing liquor outlet density or by extending venue trading hours, may increase the existing burden of alcohol-attributable health issues.
Property damage Property damage refers to both public property (such as stolen or damaged street signs, or damaged nature strips) and private property (such as broken shopfront windows).

Your local council, police, local business association, or residents in the entertainment precinct may be able to provide this data. It may also be useful to ask local businesses in the entertainment precinct/other areas with a concentration of liquor outlets what levels of damage and litter they must deal with after a Friday or Saturday night (e.g. vomit, smashed windows, noise, disruption etc.).
The VCGLR considers of whether granting a licence will pose a risk for “the possibility of nuisance or vandalism”. [7]

If there are already high rates of property damage, or an overall decrease in amenity, due to liquor outlets and their patrons’ behaviour you can argue on those grounds that granting or extending licences will increase these problems.

Get the community involved

LDATs have an opportunity to involve the community in liquor licensing processes. This may involve raising awareness in the community about why licensing matters, how the community can get involved in the process, and gathering local feedback and needs. For example, as price also affects alcohol consumption levels, community members may be particularly concerned about bulk-purchase, barn style bottle shops opening in their neighbourhood, heavily discounted take-away liquor promotions, and irresponsible ‘happy hour’ or other cheap drink promotions at drinking venues.

The number of objections may be seen by decision-makers as an indicator of social impact and increase the influence on decisions. Therefore, when your LDAT lodges an objection to a licence, it is worthwhile encouraging community members to also make an objection and assisting community partners and local residents to submit their own objections on that same licence.

LDATs may raise local awareness and engage the community in a number of different ways, including:

  • speak to the local paper
  • hold a community meeting
  • create a Facebook group/discussion
  • form a coalition with local organisations.

Useful resources: Community consultation

Formulate your response

When formulating your response, focus on the following:

  • Community concerns. You need to clearly articulate the community's concerns about how the new licence would affect the community. Consider how you can demonstrate the validity of those concerns with the data you have. Link your argument to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 grounds for making an objection. Draw on expert opinion and research when possible. Consider the concerns of your LDAT, community members and partner organisations.
  • The outcome you are seeking. Depending on the specific licence application you may be seeking different outcomes. Perhaps you want restrictions such as a cap on trading hours, a ban on late-night trading, and certain types of drink restrictions (like no shots or doubles) or you may not want the licence granted at all. You may be more likely to get restrictions placed on a licence than to have the licence denied.

All objections to a liquor licence must be in writing and clearly state the reasons for the objection, including evidence to support those reasons.

Community concerns, the outcome you are seeking, and the data about your community, should all guide how you put your objection together. Objections should also be put together in consultation with the community and partner organisations.

Grounds for making an objection

To object to a liquor licence, you must demonstrate two things:

  1. that the granting of the licence would have an adverse impact on the amenity of the area
  2. it would have a negative impact on the objector.

When considering the potential impact on amenity, the VCGLR considers:

  • the presence or absence of parking facilities
  • traffic movement and density
  • noise levels
  • the possibility of nuisance or vandalism
  • the harmony and coherence of the environment.

The following factors are considered as evidence of a loss of amenity:

  • violent behaviour
  • drunkenness
  • vandalism
  • using profane, indecent or obscene language
  • using threatening, abusive or insulting language
  • behaving in a riotous, indecent, offensive or insulting manner
  • disorderly behaviour
  • causing nuisance
  • noise disturbance to occupiers of other premises
  • obstructing a footpath, street or road
  • littering.

Under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, 38 (1A), any person may make an objection on the grounds that it would be “… conducive to or encourage the abuse of alcohol”. The objector must still demonstrate that they would be affected. Local council may have more success in objecting on these grounds. (More detail is provided in the section below 'Work with your local council').

Liquor Control Reform Act 1998

The details of the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 are important because they indicate what will be considered when the licence is being determined, and therefore what kinds of objections are relevant.

The object of this Act is to:

1) a) To contribute to minimising harm arising from the misuse and abuse of alcohol, including by:

  • Providing adequate controls over the supply and consumption of liquor
  • Ensuring as far as practicable that the supply of liquor contributes to, and does not detract from, the amenity of community life
  • Restricting the supply of certain other alcoholic products
  • Encouraging a culture of responsible consumption of alcohol and reducing risky drinking of alcohol and its impact on the community

b) To facilitate the development of a diversity of licensed facilities reflecting community expectations

c) To contribute to the responsible development of the liquor, licensed hospitality and live music industries.

2) It is the intention of the Victorian Parliament that every power, authority, discretion, jurisdiction and duty conferred or imposed by this Act must be exercised and performed with due regard to harm minimisation and the risks associated with the misuse and abuse of alcohol.

Work with your local council

In Victoria, local council may object to a liquor licence application within their jurisdiction. The VCGLR has prepared a local government liquor licence objection kit detailing how local council may do so, what are considered reasonable grounds for objecting, and a template for objection:

Because of the nature of your local council, there is not a requirement to demonstrate that it will be personally affected by the application in the way that an individual objector must. This may result in council being able to make a more successful objection under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 Section 40 (1A) “on the ground that the grant, variation or relocation would be conducive to or encourage the misuse or abuse of alcohol”.

Lodge your objection

Objections must be lodged with the VCGLR.

You can then lodge your objection via:

  • Email: contact@vcglr.vic.gov.au
  • Post: The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, GPO Box 1988, Melbourne Vic 3001
  • In person: Level 3 12 Shelley Street, Richmond Vic 3121

Follow up

After a decision is made by the VCGLR, they will write to all objectors within 28 days to inform them of the decision and their reasons for it. If the decision in your case was made by a single commissioner or delegate, you may be able to have their decision internally reviewed.[8]

Having a follow up debrief with partners provides a good opportunity to keep a sense of cohesion and momentum in your group. Discuss what worked well, what didn’t, and improve your planning and strategising for next time.

Measuring success and reporting

Measure the success of your liquor licensing activity:

  1. Collect measures of success with the community organisations you are engaging with, as well as the community members you have been reaching with your liquor licensing activity.
  2. Report on your success, acquit your funds and consider other things you can do to support your community (see Next steps).