Case for Change

Management of licensed premises

The management and operation of licensed premises play a significant role in alcohol-related harm in local communities. In particular, the prevention of drunkenness/intoxication and sales to minors are important conditions which must be adhered to.


In the United States, it has been found that the majority (58–79%) of licensed alcohol establishments were likely to sell alcohol to patrons who appear obviously intoxicated, despite laws prohibiting these sales.


In 2012, one in every 13 (7.8%) New Zealand adolescent drinkers under the legal purchase age reported being able to buy alcohol themselves. Of students who bought their own alcohol, 68.9% reported buying it from a bottle store, 14.6% from a supermarket and 16.5% from other places. 

One-quarter (25.1%) of students who purchased their own alcohol report that they almost never or hardly ever are asked for ID. This prevalence is higher (27.8%) among students living in neighbourhoods of high deprivation.

The privilege of selling alcohol in New Zealand comes with many conditions. In New Zealand, the regulatory agencies (Police, Health, Council) work together to monitor the compliance of licensed premises with the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. Some breaches can result in an immediate infringement notice and fine.

In 2014/15, the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority received 667 Enforcement applications - in 2015/16 this reduced to 504]. This remains a high number of possible breaches to the law.

However, the agencies cannot be everywhere at the same time, every day of the week. This means that licensees must be relied on to monitor their own compliance with the law. The local community can also be the eyes and ears on the ground with regards to licensee compliance.

Laws are only as good as their enforcement

As with most laws, including alcohol legislation, enforcement is critical. 

Responsible service of alcohol by licensed premises appears to be enhanced by highly publicised law enforcement. Some believe that host responsibility for licensed premises does not work unless there is a perceived level of enforcement.

Enforcement needs to be perceived as a real and immediate possibility. It is suggested that enforcement activity should be frequent, unpredictable, promoted strongly in the media, and maintained over time. The effectiveness of enforcement often depends on the quality, intensity and consistency of implementation. 

Overseas, community coalitions have been formed to assist with compliance. This is in light of research showing that training management and/or servers around responsible alcohol service does not result in long-term change.

Furthermore, the use of liquor accords have been shown to be ineffective.  "A ‘liquor accord’ combines persons from local businesses (particularly licensees), council, police, local government and government agencies and community agencies, in a voluntary partnership with the intention of developing solutions to alcohol-related problems". Strategies commonly used in accords include ID scanners, awareness campaigns, improved radio communication, banning patrons, etc.

An Australian experience

Many years ago in the Gold Coast, a Monitoring Committee was established consisting of local community and some external representatives (but not police or the liquor licensing authorities). The committee oversaw, regulated and arbitrated a Code of Practice which was developed by the nightclub managers themselves.

The Monitoring Committee arose from local community attempts at self-regulation. Violent occasions had resulted from issues such as free drinks,  inappropriate sexual behavior in public by patrons following a nightclub strip show, advertising of "specials" on alcohol and overcrowding. 

Peer pressure was also applied by the committee to some licensees in a partially successful attempt to persuade them to comply with the code of practice.

It is important to remember that such committees should not replace the need for effective police and liquor licensing enforcement - but they may be able to achieve more than would have been possible otherwise.

Click here to go to the References page