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Club Licence holders beware

17 January 2018

Once again, we would like clubs to take the time to review your practices, procedures and rules to ensure that you are complying with the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, particularly in relation to Section 60. We are aware that the Police are intending to increase their monitoring of clubs in the Wellington area and there is absolutely no reason to believe that this will not be the case elsewhere. The Police are quoted as saying “Ignorance of the Act is no longer an excuse and clubs must be prepared to face enforcement action if they are discovered operating outside the conditions of their licence or in breach of the Act.”

While compliance with all areas of the act will be on the table, section 60 will be a major focus.

DELVING INTO SECTION 60

Section 60 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act is clear in that the holder of a club licence must ensure that no alcohol is sold or supplied to any person for consumption on the premises unless the person is;

  1. An authorised customer, which means a person who;
    1. Is a member of the club concerned; or
    2. Is on the premises at the invitation of, and is accompanied by, a member of the club concerned; or
  2. An authorised visitor which means a member of some other club with which the club concerned has an arrangement for reciprocal visiting rights for members.

Section 60(3) also defines a member in relation to a club as someone who;

  1. Has expressly agreed in writing to comply with the club’s rules; and
  2. Is recognised as a member of the club by those rules.

There appears to have been a mentality in clubs that no one should be turned away, we are after all hospitality venues and we are struggling to make a sale wherever we can and as a result practices have become common that the authorities take a dim view on and can be interpreted as an attempt to get around the law.  While it is hard to turn a potential customer away, clubs need to take a much harder line in enforcing the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act and look at ways to convert people to members rather than simply getting them through the door for a quick sale.

YOUR STAFF NEED TO BE ABLE TO REFUSE SERVICE

The bottom line is that the buck stops at the bar! If a staff member is unsure whether a person is a member of the club, a guest that is invited by and accompanied by a member of the club or a member of a club with reciprocal visiting rights, they MUST be empowered to ask questions, to site a membership card or to get confirmation from the member that the person is a guest of a member and if that staff member is not satisfied they MUST not serve them – just like they would not serve someone who could not provide evidence of age.

Where staff do identify someone they cannot serve, instead of going to a quick fix of finding someone to sign them (which means nothing if they are still not an authorised customer or visitor), have the staff send them to reception or have application for membership forms handy at the bar and get them signed up (please see information on membership below) – if they don’t want to sign up, apologise and send them on their way.

We know that many clubs are still allowing staff members to “sign” visitors into the club – this is a practice that has been tested and any club that continues to do so is putting their licence at risk. Signing in is not the key, the key is that a guest is INVITED by and ACCOMPANIED by a member of the club. It was determined that a staff member cannot reasonably be expected to carry out their duties while at the same time accompanying a guest.

CAN A RECIPROCAL/AUTHORISED VISITOR BRING A GUEST?

As outlined above authorised visitor means a member of some other club with which the club concerned has an arrangement for reciprocal visiting rights for members. This definition makes no reference to a guest of an authorised visitor, however, Section 60(1)(b) of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 states that subject to a condition being added to the Club Licence allowing alcohol to be sold and supplied to a guest who is on the premises at the invitation of an authorised visitor (an authorised visitor being a club member with reciprocal visiting rights).

All clubs need to check their licences to determine whether this condition has been applied to you! If the condition is not there you cannot legally sell or supply alcohol to a guest of a reciprocal visitor! In order to get the condition, you can wait until your Club Licence is up for renewal, depending on when your licence was last renewed this could be a lengthy wait. If you do choose to wait until your licence is up for renewal you must ensure that you indicate on your licence renewal application that you wish to seek a change to your conditions (most licence applications will include a section allowing you to do this).

Alternatively, clubs can apply at any time to the District Licensing Committee to vary or cancel any condition of the licence under Section 120 of the Act. We recommend that clubs looking to seek a variation to their conditions make contact with their council to understand the process and any fees involved, unfortunately the process does vary from council to council with some simply adding the condition following a phone call, to some requiring a full application process.

COULD YOUR CONSTITUTION TRIP YOU UP?

With the definition of member being introduced to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, it has given rise to Police and Inspectors checking club constitutions to determine whether the clubs are following their own rules particularly in relation to membership and the application process.

It is accepted that clubs have the right to amend their constitutions under the Incorporated Societies Act, and introduce various types of membership and processes for the admission of members, however, we suspect that many constitutions contain holes that could trip a club up if a particularly pedantic inspector showed up.

One example that was brought to our attention is where a club has an application process that involves someone completing the application form, sometimes paying a small fee, the application is then posted on the notice board, before being submitted to the committee to be accepted or declined. It is typical practice that during this application process (which could take up to a month) that the applicant is able to utilise the club, however, most constitutions would not recognise these applicants as a member during this time opening the club to the possibility of unauthorised sale and supply.

Similarly, if your constitution specifies that an applicant must provide proof of age at the time of application, then your staff must be requesting proof of age from every applicant.

We urge clubs to review the membership categories and processes outlined in your constitutions and confirm that you are indeed walking the talk. Please also jump onto www.socieities.govt.nz and confirm that the constitution you have to hand is the latest, registered version.

BUT THEY SIGNED IN?

The act of signing in does not automatically make someone qualify as an authorised customer or an authorised visitor, and clubs that are relying solely on a sign in book at the front desk are setting their staff up to fail.

A sign in process is a very valid tool in helping staff identify authorised customers and authorised visitors, but only if it is monitored and managed.

Simply having a book at the door that anyone can fill in without any checks or having to produce a valid membership card for staff to sight is not worth the paper it’s written on. The sign in process needs to be monitored at all times with a staff member or volunteer overseeing. But at the end of the day your best protection is well trained staff behind the bar who check and are confident in their role to refuse service if they are unsure.

Many club sign in books also provide a tear off slip that visitors carry on them while in the club, in our experience these slips provide very little detail to the staff on who has actually signed them in?  Can staff tell by looking at that slip that the person is an authorised customer or an authorised visitor?

There are many more elements to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act and the above is simply a summary and a few ideas relating to a very small portion of the act. We encourage clubs to take the time now to understand the responsibilities placed on you as Club Licence holders and the processes outlined in your constitution, if you are unsure get in touch with National Office we are here to help.

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