Case for Change

Club licences are for premises where alcohol can be purchased for consumption on club premises. This includes sports clubs, cosmopolitan clubs, social clubs, etc.

The more licensed clubs in a community, the more likely alcohol harm is to occur. There may be particular risk of licensed clubs in rural areas of New Zealand.

Communities can reduce alcohol-related harm by influencing the number, location, and trading hours of club licences. Communities can do this by having their say on their local alcohol policy, or by making objections to licence applications (new and renewal) through their local District Licensing Committee.

Availability of alcohol in a community

The more that alcohol is available in a community, the higher the levels of harm it is likely to experience.

Availability of alcohol can be reduced by:

  • limiting the number of places that sell alcohol
  • reducing the hours that a licensed premises is open
  • placing conditions on a liquor licence

This section explains why each of these strategies is important.

Limiting the number of places, including clubs, that sell alcohol

The more alcohol outlets in an area, the more hazardous drinking occurs, and therefore more harm.

When a community has a high number of places that sell alcohol (licensed premises), it is more likely that community will experience alcohol-related harms such as violence, assaults, drink driving, child maltreatment, self-reported harm and heavy drinking among adolescents and university students.

Competition is high when there are many places that sell alcohol. This means that they stay open for longer to catch every sale and reduce their prices.  Low prices are linked to higher alcohol harm.

Having a high number of places that sell alcohol may also lower the amenity and good order in a community - this is because heavy drinkers may cause violence, street disturbance, litter, vomit, property damage, etc. Premises may also attract people to an area, whether or not they drink in the premises.

In New Zealand, there are more places that sell alcohol in low income communities

Young Māori and Pacific males (i.e. 18-24 years) are more negatively impacted by living in close proximity to places that sell alcohol. Young European females are most affected by living in communities with a high number of places that sell alcohol. 


In a New Zealand study, it was found that club density had a significant impact on violence, with effects stronger in census area units with populations of 3000 or less. This represents the majority of census area units in NZ, given the media population at the time of the study was 2120. Other harms significantly associated with club density in the study were dishonesty offences and sexual offences. 

Under law, it is not mandatory for a club to have a Duty Manager present

Under our liquor laws, it is not necessary for clubs to have a duty manager present when alcohol is being sold. This presents particular risks around the supply of alcohol. In contrast, an off-licence and on-licence must have a Duty Manager present, with their name clearly displayed.

Therefore, clubs are granted some leniency under law. However, District Licensing Committees can place a condition on a club licence requiring a Duty Manager to be present, especially when there is a large number of patrons.

A club cannot sell or supply alcohol to the public - only to members, guests of members, those with reciprocal visiting rights

It is very important to note that clubs cannot sell alcohol directly to members of the public. Section 60 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 states that alcohol can only to be sold and/or supplied to the following persons:

  1. An authorised customer, meaning a member of the club concerned or is on the premises at the invitation of, and is accompanied by, a member of the club concerned.
  2. An authorised visitor, meaning a member of some other club with which the club concerned has an arrangement for reciprocal visiting rights for members.

A 'member' is only someone who has expressly agreed in writing to comply with the club’s rules and is recognised as a member of the club by those rules.

Reducing the hours that clubs are open

In New Zealand, the number of hours that a licensed premises is open is determined by our alcohol laws - the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.

If a Local Council has not yet adopted a Local Alcohol Policy, then the maximum national trading hours for club licences are 8am to 4am.

These are maximum trading hours so it doesn’t mean that a premises will be allowed to open for these hours. Their licence will specify times that they are able to sell alcohol.

There are also special requirements relating to certain public holidays (no trading on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac Day before 1pm, and Christmas Day). Click here to read more. 

You can influence the trading hours of licensed club premises in your community by objecting to licence applications.

Placing conditions on club licences

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 allows licensing decision makers to place conditions on a liquor licence. Some are compulsory conditions, for example:

  • Stating the days and hours during which alcohol may be sold
  • Stating a place or places on the premises at which drinking water is freely available to customers

In addition, licensing decision makers have the discretion to add further conditions (over and above the compulsory conditions) to the licence to minimise alcohol-related harm associated with the individual premises.

Discretionary conditions may include (but are not limited to):

  • Requiring a one-way door policy after a specified hour (on-licences, club licences, special licences only – e.g. no one can enter the premises after 12am, only those in the establishment can continue purchasing alcohol)
  • Prohibiting the sale of certain types of products
  • Restricting the use of outdoor areas for dining or drinking after a specified hour.

Further examples of licence conditions can be found here.

Research shows that these types of approaches may be limited in their effectiveness if not accompanied by stronger evidence-based restrictions to the availability of alcohol. Research also shows that discretionary conditions are more effective if they are applied in a consistent manner.