Applying for a licence
If you want to apply for an alcohol licence or ask about an existing licence, you should contact your local council.
What are the criteria for assessing applications?
District Licensing Committees (DLCs) consider all applications for licences in each territorial authority.
Both contested and uncontested applications are considered by a local DLC. A DLC can transfer an application to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) for a decision if the chair of ARLA agrees.
When deciding whether to issue a licence, the DLC (or ARLA) must have regard to:
- the object of the Act
- the suitability of the applicant
- any relevant local alcohol policy
- the days and hours of sale
- the design and layout of premises
- the sale of goods other than alcohol and refreshments
- the provision of other services not related to the sale of alcohol and refreshments
- whether amenity and good order of the area would be substantially reduced
- the undesirability of further licences where amenity and good order have already been reduced
- whether the applicant has systems, staff and training to comply with the law
- any matters reported by the Police, an inspector or the Medical Officer of Health.
Further information on criteria
The decision makers cannot take into account the impacts of the licence on business conducted under any other licence or other matters not covered by the criteria.
Note: District Plan consent requirements must be met before a licence is applied for.
Who can object?
Anyone can object to an application for a licence, licence renewal, variation of licence conditions or special licence, with narrow exceptions for trade competitors and their surrogates.
A trade competitor (anyone who holds a licence to sell alcohol) cannot object if their objection is about trade. Surrogates of a trade competitor are also prohibited from objecting. A surrogate is a person who receives or is likely to receive direct or indirect help from a trade competitor to object to an application.
Whoever is holding the licensing hearing will decide if someone is a trade competitor or surrogate – either a district licensing committee (DLC) or the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA).
What are the grounds for objection?
An objection can be made based on (but only on) any of the criteria in the Act. The decision makers cannot take into account the impacts of the licence on business conducted under any other licence or other matters not covered by the criteria.
Who decides whether a licence will be granted or renewed?
The bodies that make decisions about licences are:
- District Licensing Committees (DLCs), which are administered by your local territorial authority, consider all licence applications. For more information
- Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) is the national decision making body for licensing and deals with matters referred to it by a DLC, as well as appeals against decisions of DLCs. For more information on ARLA
The following people also have input into the licensing process:
- Inspectors work for each territorial authority but act independently to enforce the Act, monitor licences and advise the DLC and ARLA on applications. Inspectors must provide a report to on each licence application.
- The Medical Officer of Health is located in the local district health board. Medical Officers of Health must inquire into the application and may provide a report on a licence application.
- Local police must inquire into the application and may provide a report on a licence application.
How is the licensing decision made?
When you apply for a licence, you need to complete the required form, which is available from your local territorial authority. You will need to pay the appropriate risk-based fees (which will be set by regulation or bylaw) when you lodge your application. You will receive an acknowledgement of your application and may be contacted by a licensing inspector to discuss your application. You will also receive a copy of any objection.
Copies of your application and any objections are also sent to the Police, Medical Officer of Health and licensing inspector for investigation and reporting.
The DLC will consider and issue all licences and licence renewals. Provision is made for applications to be referred to ARLA for a decision but the Chair of ARLA must give leave for this to happen. If there are no objections the application may be granted without a public hearing. If there are objections a public hearing will be held unless the objection is deemed vexatious or the applicant does not require a hearing.
How do I appeal a decision?
If you disagree with the DLC’s decision you can appeal to ARLA. Appeals against ARLA decisions are dealt with by way of a rehearing. You need to give a notice of appeal to ARLA within 10 working days of the date of the decision being notified to you.
There is a cost for filing an appeal. Find out more information on appeals.