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Alcohol law changes for the industry - December 2013

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On 18 December 2013, New Zealand's alcohol laws are changing.

The reforms, introduced by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, aim to improve New Zealand's drinking culture and reduce the harm caused by excessive drinking.

This is a summary of the main changes that affect the alcohol industry from 18 December.

A summary of main changes that affect the general public is also available.

Trading hours

New national maximum trading hours apply to businesses that sell alcohol:

  • 8am - 4am for on-licences and clubs (such as bars, pubs and nightclubs)
  • 7am – 11pm for off-licences (such as bottle stores, supermarkets and grocery stores)

If you are currently open outside these times, you will have to change your operating hours or the times you sell alcohol, so plan accordingly.

The changes take effect from your first full trading day on 18 December. This means:

  • on-licences (except for hotel minibars, which are exempt from the limits) must stop trading at 4am on the morning of Thursday 19 December 2013
  • off-licences (except for caterers, which will be treated as on-licences) must stop trading at 11pm on Wednesday 18 December 2013.

If your existing licence is for shorter hours, you must stick to those times.

You also need to notify your customers about the changes in the weeks before 18 December.

Local councils may set different maximum trading hours as part of a local alcohol policy. Check your council's website to see if it is putting a policy in place.

New host responsibilities

From 18 December 2013, all on-licences have to supply or make available low- and non-alcohol beverages, food and information about safe transport.

Also, businesses receiving an on-licence for the first time or renewing their existing on-licence:

  • must supply free water for patrons, and
  • will have to meet other conditions required by the local district licensing committee (for example, one-way door restrictions after certain times, security requirements).

Advertising and promotions

The new law bans all advertising and marketing that promotes excessive alcohol consumption or has special appeal to minors.

Except within licensed premises, you also cannot:

  • advertise free alcohol
  • promote discounts of 25 percent or more
  • offer customers free goods, services or opportunities to win prizes if they purchase alcohol

The penalty is a fine of up to $10,000. A business' licence may also be suspended or cancelled.


We encourage you to check section 237 of the Act and get legal advice before placing ads or launching promotions.

Store displays

New rules about alcohol displays, promotions and associated advertising in supermarkets and grocery stores start coming into force on 18 December 2013.

The law requires that displays and promotions can only be in a single area of the store. The purpose of the new rule is to limit how much shoppers are exposed to them.

The new rules apply when supermarkets and grocery stores receive an off-licence for the first time or renew their existing off-licence. Licensing agencies may give businesses renewing their licence a limited period of time to reconfigure their premises.

We encourage you to check sections 112-115 of the Act and get legal advice to ensure you comply with the law.

Intoxicated people will not be served

As under the previous law, you cannot serve intoxicated people or allow them to remain on the premises.

The new Act clearly defines "intoxicated." This means someone who is affected by alcohol, drugs or other substances and who is displaying two or more of the following conditions:

  • affected appearance
  • impaired behaviour
  • impaired co-ordination or
  • impaired speech

You should familiarise yourself with the new definition and make sure your staff know their responsibilities. Useful resources include the Intoxication assessment tool (PDF, 163KB).

The penalties for breaching intoxicated patrons offences include fines of up to $10,000.

Repeat offenders' licences may be cancelled

If you break licensing laws, you are now more likely to lose your licence or managers certificate.

In particular, if the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority finds that you breached specific provisions three times within three years, your licence or managers certificate can be cancelled. If it is, you won't be able to get another one for five years.

The specific offences are set out in section 288 of the Act. They include breaking the new advertising and promotions rules, and selling and supplying alcohol to under-age drinkers and intoxicated people.

Grocery stores, dairies and convenience stores

Grocery stores that mainly sell food products may sell alcohol if they have an off-licence.

The definition of "food products" does not include convenience foods (for example, confectionary, ready-to-eat takeaways and snack food). Detailed definitions are outlined in regulations.

Under the previous Sale of Liquor Act 1989, some dairies and convenience stores were granted a licence to sell alcohol. This was not intended. Such stores with existing licences will not be able to renew them. However, they may be granted a transitional licence until no later than 18 December 2014 to give them time to sell existing alcohol stock or change their business model to mainly sell food products.

Special licences

If you're holding an event that requires a special licence, you must now apply at least 20 working days before the event is held (although exceptions can be made for unforeseen events, such as funerals).

It's important to note that a 'working day' does not include weekends, statutory holidays or any day between 20 December and 15 January (inclusive).

For more information about special licences and how to apply, check with your local council.

Other changes

The new Act also includes various other requirements for licensees that came into force earlier this year. For more information, see

Resources and useful information

The Health Promotion Agency has a range of resources and publications designed to help businesses understand and comply with the new laws. See the research and resources section at

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