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Chapter 5: Liquor Licensing

Responsible consumption of alcohol brings many benefits - vibrant, liveable cities and regions, prosperous businesses, and good times with friends. But while enjoying alcohol is an intrinsic part of many cultures, drinking harmfully does not have to be. It is important to be aware of the effects of alcohol and how to minimise the risks associated with drinking.

If your venue holds a liquor licence, it is important to comply with the relevant legislation and licence conditions to ensure that your venue is a safe and pleasant destination for patrons to enjoy a night out.

Minimum Requirements

Liquor Act 2019

The Liquor Act sets out the minimum requirements by which you need to abide if you wish to supply liquor from your premises, including the requirement to obtain a licence.

The primary purpose of this Act is to minimise the harm associated with the consumption of liquor in a way that recognises the public's interest in the sale, supply, service, promotion and consumption of liquor.

The Northern Territory Government Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade is the authority that issues licences and regulates licensed premises. There are several types of licences, but most live music venues hold either a small bar, public bar or club/community club licence. All licences contain conditions that you must comply with, including trading hours, maximum patron numbers, availability of food and amenity provisions.

One of the key requirements under the Liquor Act is the requirement for licensees and staff selling, offering or serving liquor for general, on premises, late night and packaged liquor licences to complete an approved Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) training course. Staff have to receive their RSA within 7 days of starting employment in a licensed venue. Once you have completed the course, you need to renew it every three years. The licensee is required to keep an RSA register with a record of each staff members’ current RSA certification. Licensees are also required to familiarise themselves with the requirements around promoting alcohol responsibly.

In addition, the licence applicant will need to prove they are a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold a liquor minimum requirements licence. Requirements to prove this are outlined on the Licensing NT website.

Licensees are required to display their current liquor licence and any other signage required under the Liquor Act in a prominent position in their venue. Gambling and liquor inspectors or a member of the police may inspect licensed premises at any time to check compliance with the Liquor Act.

Some of the most serious offences under the Liquor Act are:

  • Supplying liquor without a licence;
  • Supplying liquor not in accordance with the licence;
  • Supplying liquor to an intoxicated person; • Permitting a drunken or disorderly person on the premises;
  • Supplying liquor to a minor; and
  • Permitting a minor on licensed premises (there are some exceptions to this rule – see Chapter 6 for hosting underage events on licensed premises).

Annual liquor license fees are risk assessed with licensed venues taking greater steps to reduce harm awarded a lower licence cost.

Local Liquor Accords

In addition to the licensing requirements outlined in the Liquor Act 2019, licensed live music venues may enter into a local liquor accord either voluntarily or at the request of the Director of Liquor Licensing (hereafter referred to as ‘the Director’). With the aim of preventing or reducing alcohol-related violence, local liquor accords may further restrict the sale or supply of alcohol, increase the cost of alcohol for consumers, restrict hours of operation, increase the number/type of security staff on or in premises, restrict the use of glass containers and/or require the installation of specific surveillance or security systems in participating venues. While accords primarily consist of venues, councils, the Commissioner of Police, local business groups, community groups and regulatory bodies may also be parties to local liquor accords.

132 (2) of the Liquor Act 2019 stipulates that the Director may require a licensee to be a party to a local liquor accord and 132 (3)states that once written notice has been issued by the Director, a licensee is taken to be a party to the local liquor accord after 14 days. Licensees who voluntarily enter an accord may request removal however those required to be party to the accord by the Director may not.

As at January 2021, the following local liquor accords are operational in the Northern Territory:

  • Darwin Inner City
  • Darwin Northern Suburbs
  • Nhulunbuy
  • Kakadu
  • Katherine
  • Central Australia

Best Practice

Responsible alcohol advertising and promotions

Licensees have clear obligations under the Liquor Act to serve alcohol responsibly. The Director has the power to ban inappropriate advertising or promotions. Such action may also result in the Director seeking to vary, suspend or cancel a liquor licence.

In using these powers, the Director will take into account whether the promotion is likely to encourage irresponsible or excessive consumption of alcohol or is otherwise not in the public interest. Liquor promotions are deemed to be inappropriate if they:

  • Encourage patrons to consume more liquor than normal or consume liquor more rapidly than normal,
  • Use designs, motifs, characters or other marketing tactics that appeal to children,
  • Are indecent or offensive,
  • Provide extreme discounts below the minimum sale price of $1.30 per standard drink,
  • Serve liquor in non-standard measures,
  • Are for a limited duration that encouraged rapid consumption of discounted liquor.

A licensee can serve no more than 2 standard drinks per day free of charge to a patron. 2 for 1 offers and all you can drink offers are unacceptable. ‘Happy Hour’ promotions are acceptable provided only a start OR finish time is promoted, it concludes prior to 8pm and drink prices are not promoted.

In addition to meeting your obligations under the Liquor Act, you may also promote responsible drinking by:

  • Clearly informing patrons through written policies and signs that your venue discourages irresponsible drinking behaviour.
  • Providing free drinking water (which is a legal requirement) and considering providing free bar snacks and encouraging patrons drinking alcohol to order a meal.

Train bar staff in liquor management principles

Inform and train staff about liquor licensing requirements, harm minimisation issues and the consequences of not complying.

  • Develop a house policy that sets out your venue’s approach to the service of liquor, and ensure that all staff understand it.
  • Appoint a staff member as an RSA ‘monitor’, who is responsible for supporting bar staff in serving alcohol responsibly and assisting patrons to monitor their alcohol consumption.
  • Train management to provide support to staff when dealing with intoxicated or underage patrons.

Maintain a safe working environment

  • Maintain a safe working environment by serving drinks in toughened or shatterproof glass and regularly clearing the floor area of empty glasses and bottles.

Cooperate with authorities

  • Cooperate with gambling and liquor inspectors and police if they conduct an inspection of your premises.
  • If you need to apply for a temporary limited licence to extend your trading hours for a special event, plan at least eight weeks ahead to ensure you obtain the licence in time.
  • Join your local liquor forum and support its statement of intention.


Liquor Act 2019 Legislation/LIQUOR-ACT-2019

Responsible Promotion of Alcohol Code of Practice hospitality/law-and-management/ responsible-promotion-of-alcoholcode-of-practice

Liquor Licensing NT

Find more information on applying for, or changing a liquor license. Plus details on the following:

  • Guidelines for camera surveillance
  • Rules around adult entertainment
  • Reporting drink spiking
  • Public holiday trading
  • Photo ID systems
  • Take-away alcohol
  • Children in licensed venues
  • Provision of water
  • Smoking laws
  • Local liquor accords
  • Changes to liquor laws
  • Responsible promotion of alcohol

Phone: 08 8999 2800 Email:

Hospitality NT

Member-based organisation providing support, information on training (including RSA), industry events and more. Visit au