History of Liquor Licensing in South Australia
History of the Licensing
Authority in SA |
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Regulations covering the sale and supply of liquor in Australia
date as far back as the beginning of European settlement
in Australia in January 1788.
The First Proposed Licensing Act
The commencement of liquor licensing legislation in South
Australia coincided with the proclamation of South
Australia as a Province in 1836. The legislation was to
authorise any Justice of the Peace or any Constable
(either alone or with another person) to enter a licensed
house at any hour of the day or night. If admittance
was refused or brazenly delayed the licence holder was to
incur some form of disciplinary action. The first statute
(no. 4 of 1837) was disallowed, mainly because the
licence fee of 50 pounds per annum was considered too high.
Act No. 1 of 1839 was the first liquor licensing
legislation to operate in the then Province. Between 1836
and 1839, licences were granted by the
Governor under his prerogative powers.
21 February 1839 saw the first liquor legislation passed
for South Australia (an amended version of the first
proposed Act). Act No. 1 endorsed a reduced annual fee.
The legislation allowed for three classes of licence:
General Publican's Licence - allowing the sale of wine,
ale, beer, spirits, or other fermented liquors for
consumption on or off the premises. The annual licence
fee was 25 pounds.
Wine, Ale, Beer and other Malt Liquors Licence -
allowing the sale of these items for consumption on or
off the premises. The annual licence fee was 12 pounds.
Storekeeper's Licence - allowing for the sale of wine,
spirits and other fermented liquor in minimum
quantities and for consumption off the premises. The
annual licence fee was five pounds.
In 1869 a new licence came into effect:
Storekeeper's Colonial Wine Licence - allowing for the
sale of one reputed quart bottle of wine to a person.
However, the alcohol was not allowed to be consumed on
the licensed premises, but instead had to be taken away
for consumption. The annual licence fee was one pound.
An example of an early liquor licensing law in South
Australia (1839) stated that a publican was required to
provide for "..a traveller and his horse, or a traveller
without a horse, the horse of a traveller not becoming a
guest of the house ..or any corpse which may be brought
to his public house for the purpose of a Coroner's
inquest." Any publican not providing such a service was
committing an offence and liable to be fined up to 20
On 31 May 1837 John Guthrie was the first person licensed
to sell retail liquor in South Australia. He held licence
No. 1 in premises known as 'Guthrie's', Part Town Acre
127 Currie Street, Adelaide. The premises are still
trading and now known as the Edinburgh Castle Hotel.
During the 1800s hotels played an integral part in the
early history of the settlement. They provided a focal
point for social activity. The 1840s saw Adelaide's first
take-away food service become available from the Sydney
Hotel on North Terrace. Hotels were also looked upon as
semi-official establishments. Occasionally they
functioned as Post Offices (this was disapproved of by
the Post Master General and ceased in 1851), and were
frequently used for meetings of all kinds as the hotel
generally had the only large room in the district.
All in a Name
The statute regulating the sale of liquor is currently known as the Liquor
Licensing Act. Before then, it was known as the Licensing Act, and prior to
1900 it was called the Licensed Victuallers Act.
Examination of South Australia's legislation over its full history reveals
changes in community attitudes on a range of issues.
- A prohibition on the sale of liquor to Aboriginal Communities applied
from 1839 to 1915.
- Changes in general trading hours saw quite liberal hours operating from
1839 to 1915. For most of this period 11 pm was the closing hour for hotels.
As a result of a referendum held in 1915, 6pm closing was introduced and
remained in force until 1967, when closing times began to be liberalised
- The 1908 Licensing Act prevented single women (except in special circumstances)
from holding a publican's or wine licence.
- Since 1839 the minimum drinking age ranged from no limit to a minimum
of 21. In 1972 the minimum drinking age was set at 18 and has remained since.
History of the Licensing Authority in South Australia
The licensing authority, originally known as the Licensing Bench came into
existence in 1869 but initially did not have control over all types of licences.
It was not until the legislation changed in 1880 that the power to grant licences
was vested in the licensing authority.
At that time South Australia was divided into several licensing districts,
each of which had its own Licensing Court with its own magistrate.
Changes to the Licensing Authority in South Australia
The Licensing Act 1967 completely changed the way the
Licensing Bench operated. The Licensing Bench became the
Licensing Court of South Australia and was established as
a Court of record. The Court's records in relation to its
proceedings were available to the public for inspection
(and still are).
The Licensing Court comprised of a Chairman (a Judge), and Deputy Chairman and a Licensing Court
Magistrate. A full bench of the Court comprised of the
Judge and two other members.
The full bench was required to hear all major matters
all applications for new licences;
all applications for the revocation, removal and
suspension of licences, and the imposition, variation
or removal of licence conditions;
all appeals from a minor matter heard by a single
all special cases and points of law referred to it by a
other matters as required by the rules of the Court.
All other matters considered minor could be heard by a
single member of the Court.
Major Inquiries into Liquor Licensing Laws in
The first major inquiries into liquor licensing laws in
this State occurred in 1879 with the 'Report of
Commission Appointed to Report on the Liquor Laws'. The
the number of licences issued;
the Licensing Bench; and
Very few changes were made to the Licensing Act as a
result of this review.
The next major review of licensing laws in South
Australia occurred in 1966. A Royal Commission was
conducted by Mr. A.K. Sangster, Q.C. Over time the review
became known as the 'Sangster Royal Commission'. As a
result of this review a Bill was prepared to amend the
Licensing Act, and on 28 September 1967 a new Act came
In February 1983 the Government of South Australia
approved 'the conduct of a comprehensive review of the
Licensing Act and its administration'.
The review, conducted between February 1983 and June
1984, recommended major changes to the Licensing
Act and the way in which the Act was administered.
One key recommendation was to establish an authority
capable to determine matters in two ways:
Substantial matters which could have considerable
impact in the liquor industry would be determined
formally, openly and independently by an authority
through the judicial process. These matters would be
dealt with in a Licensing Court where judicial
decisions would be made and separate administration
would put them into effect. Such matters included:
the grant of most new licences;
matters significantly altering the licensee's
the suspension or revocation of licences;
disciplinary action against licensees.
Matters which could be dealt with less formally, either
by a tribunal or an administration officer with
appropriate substantive powers. Such matters would include:
uncontested transfers of licences;
surrender of licences;
alterations to buildings;
short term licences (for short term or one off
maintenance of standards of licensed premises.
As a result of the lack of formality matters could be
dealt with more expeditiously and with less expense to
the parties by the Commissioner or a delegate of the
The 1985 Liquor Licensing Act was introduced to address the issues
highlighted in the report submitted following the
In October 1997 the current Liquor Licensing Act came into operation.