Get Prepared

Advertising at Alcohol Outlets

Alcohol signage outside licensed premises is a form of advertising. Compared to mainstream forms of alcohol advertising, there is less research in relation to alcohol advertising outside alcohol retail outlets. For more information read on below, or check out this factsheet.


Signs at licensed premises are considered alcohol advertisements under the Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol and the Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code if they are promoting alcohol products, brands or outlets.  The brand of an alcohol outlet is not automatically considered an alcohol advertisement – the intent of the advertisement must be to promote the consumption of alcohol.  See the definitions listed in the Code itself for more information. 

Most signage at alcohol outlets will not breach the Code by way of their content – however the location of the outlet may raise concerns about the placement of the advertising – if it is next to a school or other site frequented by children then the advertisement may not meet standards of social responsibility.

Council Bylaws and District Plans

Some areas will have controls on signs at licensed premises through a district or unitary plan, while some areas, such as Auckland will have a signage bylaw. A signage bylaw may have different requirements for different types of premises, and different zones.  However, they are likely to apply to signs at licensed premises.

Rules are set at each council, and are unlikely to be designed specifically for signage at alcohol outlets. For example, Auckland Council’s Signage Bylaw has rules for sandwich board and flag signs (portable signs), window signs, wall mounted signs, and veranda signs:

  • only one portable sign per premises, with placement and size limitations
  • no more than 50% height or width of windows to be covered by signs
  • wall mounted signs to be no greater than three square metres in area
  • No above veranda signs permitted
  • Veranda fascia signs must be less than 0.6 metres in height

The rules listed above are just examples and the actual requirements will be different in different zoning areas, and premises may also have consents exempting them from the requirements.

Signage rules apply to all types of premises that have signs, including licensed premises, though the details can be complex and there may be exemptions and exceptions.

In the Wellington region signs are mainly regulated through district plans.  Wellington City in their district plan (rule - page 38) for business areas says that signs must only be displayed on plain wall surfaces an must not cover windows or architectural features.  In Porirua City, signs are regulated differently in City Centre, Suburban, Industrial, and Rural Zones under the District Plan.  In the Suburban zone, signs must relate to the activities on site, and not exceed one square metre in total area (section D3.2.1 Suburban Zone Standards (xv) signs).  

Kapiti Coast District Plan has provisions around signs indicating signs on walls and windows shall not cover more than 20% of the wall or window area, and that sign protruding out from a wall must be a minimum of 2.5 metres above the footpath level, not protrude more the 500 mm from the wall, and not exceed one square metre in area.  See 12.3.3 (page 27) of the District Plan.

Bylaws setting out requirements for signs can be found in Whangarei, Waimakariri, Thames Coromandel, Ashburton, and other areas. Check with your local council for relevant bylaws or district plan requirements regarding signs.  Not all local councils will have requirements that are useful for reducing advertising at alcohol outlets.

Knowing what the rules are regarding signage and advertising in your local area will enable you to take effective and appropriate actions.

Placing conditions relating to external signage and advertising of alcohol on a licensed premises

Leading up to and during the renewal of the licensed premise, you may consider requesting that the District Licensing Committee place conditions such as removing external signage and advertising of alcohol.

Sometimes it can be difficult to have conditions imposed on the licence – but this doesn’t mean that you can’t discuss these with the applicant and encourage them to sign an undertaking. An undertaking is a formal written statement (can even be in an email) that the applicant promises to adhere to certain requirements.

If you are not comfortable engaging with the licensee, you could talk with the council inspectors or the medical officer of health regarding your concerns about signage and alcohol advertising.

If you were to make an objection to a licence renewal or even a new licence you would need to argue that the signage and advertising is not consistent with the criteria for issue or renewal of licences (see s105 and s131).  Key criteria include the suitability of the applicant (they may be breaching local bylaws or the district plan with their signs and advertising), the design and layout of the premises, the amenity (the pleasantness or agreeableness, including visual) and good order of the locality, and the manner in which alcohol has been sold, displayed, advertised, or promoted.  Your opposition to a licence application or renewal will be significantly stronger if the Council, Medical Officer of Health, or Police are also opposing, so it is a good idea to talk with these agencies beforehand.

Please visit the next section if you are considering to TAKE ACTION

Please visit the section on Alcohol Licensing to learn more about objecting to a liquor licence application.