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Warning to bottleshops after breaches detected

Friday 20 February, 2015    [PDF,256kb]

The Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing (OLGR) has warned bottle shops about the need to close by 10pm and thoroughly check identification to ensure alcohol is not sold to minors following a series of concerning breaches identified in recent weeks.

On February 6, Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing (OLGR) inspectors detected sales of takeaway alcohol after 10pm at a Darling Harbour bottle shop. CCTV records also revealed sales after 10.45pm on three previous weekends. The matter is still under investigation.

A statewide 10pm limit on the sale of takeaway alcohol was introduced in February 2014 to reduce excessive availability of alcohol late at night and continue to drive down alcohol-related harm across the state.

Breaching the 10pm law carries potential penalties of up to $11,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment and strikes under the Three Strikes disciplinary scheme.

Meanwhile, a Central Coast bottle shop is expected to become the State’s first venue to face tough new penalties for allegedly selling alcohol to minors. On 26 January, OLGR inspectors observed a 17-year-old youth purchasing alcohol from the bottle shop without being asked for age identification.

On 7 February, OLGR inspectors caught an adult male purchasing alcohol from the same bottleshop and then supplying it to a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old girl outside.

Selling or supplying alcohol to a minor is a serious offence which can attract an infringement notice of $1,100 or a maximum court imposed fine of up to $11,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment if prosecuted, as well as a strike for venues under the Three Strikes disciplinary scheme.

What's more, following the passage of new liquor laws through Parliament last year, a new escalating sanctions regime is also in place which creates further significant penalties for licensed venues caught selling alcohol to minors.

Under these new laws, a licensee will need to put their case to the Secretary of NSW Trade & Investment as to why their licence should not be suspended for up to 28 days, when convicted of an initial offence.

If a second offence is committed within 12 months of the first offence the licence will be automatically suspended for 28 days.

Finally, a licence will be automatically cancelled and the licensee disqualified from holding a liquor licence for 12 months if a third offence occurs within 12 months of the first offence.

Commenting on the breaches, OLGR Director of Compliance Anthony Keon said: "Bottle shop owners and staff have an important responsibility to abide by the State's liquor laws and rogue operators that trade unlawfully or sell alcohol to minors will face serious consequences.

"OLGR inspectors are taking a zero tolerance approach to any licensed venues or staff found selling alcohol to minors, as well as any adults caught supplying alcohol to minors illegally through secondary supply.

"Individual responsibility also plays an important role and minors need to know they are breaking the law if they attempt to purchase alcohol before they turn 18 and can face infringement notices of $220 or a maximum court imposed fine of $2,200.

"Minors caught using fake IDs can also be required to spend an extra six months on their P-plates once they obtain a provisional drivers licence."

Liquor stores are encouraged to adopt the Liquor Stores Association’s ‘ID-25’ and ‘Don’t Buy It For Them’ initiatives which aim to prevent underage alcohol sales and secondary supply.

OLGR has worked with industry associations to develop new materials for venues including an ID checklist and flowchart sticker encouraging staff request proof of age ID if a customer looks under 25, to refuse to sell if an ID is suspect, and a window decal warning minors of the penalties if they risk trying to purchase alcohol.

Other recent offences of alcohol supply to minors related to takeaway sales detected by OLGR

  • At Byron Bay on 24 November 2014 , OLGR inspectors observed a man and woman provide two 17-year-old girls with a six pack of beer and a 700 ml bottle of vodka purchased on their behalf from a bottleshop. They were both issued with $1,100 penalty notices.
  • In Newcastle on New Year’s Eve 2014, OLGR inspectors observed a woman purchase 18 vodka pre-mixed cans from a liquor store and provide the alcohol to five 17-year-olds in exchange for money. The woman was issued with a $1,100 penalty notice.
  • On Sydney’s northern beaches on 17 January 2015, an OLGR compliance operation observed a young woman drinking a vodka cruiser while approaching a Collaroy bottleshop to buy cigarettes. The woman was in company with two 17-year-old girls, one of whom also had an open bottle of vodka cruiser. The woman admitted providing the 17-year-old with alcohol at the minor's home while her parents were away. She was issued with a $1,100 penalty notice.