Previously the Liquor Act prohibited liquor consumption in a car park area without prior approval. The Act did not define a car park; therefore, the conventional definition was used: an area normally used for the parking of cars.
However, the passage of the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Act 2016 included insertion of a definition of a car park:
car park means an area with a surface designed or adapted for the parking of vehicles, whether or not the area is being used for that purpose.
One interpretation of the definition is that any level outdoor surface could be deemed to be a car park, which would potentially include beer gardens or paved outdoor consumption areas accessible to cars. Although OLGR has assured us that this is not the intent of the legislation, it begs the question of why the definition was written in such a broad sense. Whilst the expanded definition of a car park is a potentially negative outcome, on the positive side there is now a clearer process for any licensee who wishes to use a car park for the service of liquor.
Additionally, approvals will no longer be restricted to a single occasion, the new rules permit an approval for up to three months. This may create opportunities for some licensees which were not previously available, although this comes at a cost: there is a fee payable for each occasion of use and an occasion is limited to no more than three consecutive days.
Therefore, a licensee wishing to use a car park every day for three months would require approval for 30 separate occasions. The 2016/17 approval fee is $65.40 per occasion, which adds up to $1,962 for 90 days.
The changes came into effect on 1 September 2016 and at the date of publication, while some applications for approval have been lodged, we are unaware of any compliance action against licensees regarding the use of car parks under the new definition.