Special licences

On this page:

What is a special licence?

A special licence allows the sale or supply of alcohol at certain events (for example, a food and wine festival or some types of private functions in public venues).

If alcohol is sold at the event, the person responsible needs to get a special licence. They also need a special licence if alcohol will be available and they charge an entry fee or ask for a donation or koha.

There are 2 types of special licence:

  • on-site special licence: this allows the sale or supply of alcohol that will be consumed at the event.
  • off-site special licence: this allows the sale or supply of alcohol that will be taken away and consumed at another place. This also allows free samples to be supplied. An off-site special licensee can only sell their alcohol (for example, a winery can sell the wine they produce).

A special licence can cover a series of events, for up to 12 months after it's issued.

Back to top

How do I get a special licence?

The person seeking a special licence must file an application with the local council for the area where the event will take place.

The district licensing committee (DLC) for that area will consider the application and decide whether to grant the licence.

For events on conveyances (such as trains, planes and buses), the application must be filed in the district of the applicant’s principal place of business.

Back to top

How long does it take to get a special licence?

The application must be filed at least 20 working days before the event. However, people should file the application even earlier to help ensure it is processed in time.

Applications can be considered in less than 20 working days if the event is unexpected (for example, a funeral). The DLC will decide if the event could have been foreseen.

Please note: Weekends, statutory holidays and any days between 20 December and 15 January (inclusive) are not ‘working days' according to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. This means people seeking a special licence need to think carefully about when they need to submit their application by, especially for events between late December and mid-February.

Back to top

Who is involved in considering an application for a special licence?

The application is initially considered by a licensing inspector, Police and the local medical officer of health. They may suggest certain conditions, or that the application be declined.

The DLC will then consider reports from the licensing inspector (and from Police and medical officer of health, if they submit reports), any objections (see below) and decide whether to grant the licence.

When Police and the medical officer of health consider an application, they have 15 working days to file a report. If they don’t, the DLC can assume they have no objections.

For applications submitted less than 20 days before an unforeseen event, the DLC must ask Police and the medical officer of health to submit any reports within 15 days or less. However, the DLC must consult with these agencies before fixing a date that reports must be received by.

Back to top

What hours apply to special licences?

A special licence can allow the sale or supply alcohol at any time of day or night. However, the district licensing committee (DLC) may set certain hours as a condition of the licence.

Also, a council’s local alcohol policy may specify maximum hours for special licences. The DLC must consider that policy when making decisions about licence applications.

Back to top

Who can object to a special licence?

In some circumstances, the DLC may require the person seeking the special licence to publically notify the application. If so, a person who has a greater interest than the general public (such as someone who lives near the event location) can object to it.

Back to top

How much does it cost?

In most cases, the fee depends on the size and number of events covered by the special licence. For more information, see the fee system for alcohol licensing(external link).

Back to top

This page was last updated: