Permits enabling craft brewers to provide free samples and sell take away beer at promotional events in Queensland are set to commence from 1 September.
The licence endorsement enabling the change were provided for in the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 and allows craft brewers to sell craft beer for consumption away from the promotional event (take-away sales) and/or supply craft beer for consumption at the promotional event, free-of-charge for sampling purposes only.
To be eligible brewers cannot have more than one producer/wholesaler licence that has been issued under the Liquor Act 1992 or an equivalent licence issued by another state, including any licence held by a licensee related to the entity. The brewery also cannot produce more than 5 million litres of craft beer in any financial year.
While a small step forward for craft breweries, the Queensland Government’s approach to craft beer and wine appears to be significantly different, with craft beer producers limited to providing free samples and take-away sales at events, while Queensland wine producers are not subject to the same limitations under their permit system.
Under the Wine Industry Act 1994 (Queensland), wine permits allow the sale of a licensees’ wine for one-off events such as festivals, trade shows and conventions. These permits are not limited to the provision of free samples. A wine permit can be issued to an individual wine producer or a group of wine producers wishing to operate from the same area at the same event, such as operating a Queensland wine booth at a major festival. This does not appear to be open to craft breweries.
The separate treatment creates the situation where a winery and a craft brewery can operate side-by-side at a food festival, with the winery permitted to sell wine for consumption besides a brewery only permitted to provide free samples and bottled sales for take-away.
Australian Brews News has previously sought clarification of the reasons for the differing treatments of wine and craft beer under the Queensland legislative regime, with the questions posed and answers provided below. We have again today sought a simple clarification of the reasons for the differing treatments for wine and craft beer from the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General.
When the nominal purpose of these provisions is to assist with the economic development of the small brewery sector, why is the craft brewing permit system so much more convoluted that the relatively simple and very effective system that is currently in place for Queensland wineries when these provisions aim to achieve exactly the same result?
Answer (spokesman for The Hon Yvette D’Ath , the Queensland Attorney-General.)
The Palaszczuk Government recognises that Queensland is home to a thriving craft beer industry. The Government also acknowledges that craft beer producers face challenges in marketing and distributing their product. As a consequence of the smaller volumes of beer produced by these businesses, it is often difficult to sell the product via the traditional retail liquor market. Moreover, unlike Queensland wine and cider producers, who are able to market their products at promotional events through a permit system under the Wine Industry Act 1994 (Wine Industry Act), craft beer producers have not had this ability.
That is why the Government introduced amendments in the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (Amendment Act) to enable craft beer producers to sell their products at eligible promotional events that promote produce from a local region, such as farmers’ markets and food and wine events, and events which promote the hospitality industry, such as craft beer festivals and trade fairs. These reforms are intended to support the growth, innovation and sustainability of the craft beer industry in Queensland, whilst harnessing the capacity of these types of businesses to generate tourism.
It is considered the licence condition/permit approval scheme provided in the Amendment Act overcomes certain limitations associated with the licensing framework provided in the Wine Industry Act by assisting already licensed Queensland producers whilst also encouraging craft beer producers from other jurisdictions to showcase their products at promotional events that bolster Queensland’s tourism and hospitality profile.
The means by which Queensland craft brewers can obtain approval to sell their product away from the licensed premises is similar to the process for Queensland wine producers under the Wine Industry Act. Craft beer producers that hold a producer/wholesaler licence under the Queensland Liquor Act may apply to the Commissioner for Liquor and Gaming to vary their existing licence conditions to include an authorisation to supply their craft beer at promotional events. An approval remains valid for the duration of the period specified in the licence.
This process represents a simple approach for granting the approval that reduces unnecessary regulatory burden, given that these brewers would already hold a liquor licence in Queensland. Rather than applying and being assessed for suitability to hold a separate craft beer producer permit, Queensland licensees would simply have an authorising condition placed on their current liquor licence.
Because this licence conditioning mechanism is limited to Queensland producers, the Government has also introduced a permit system for craft beer producers who are not eligible to hold a licence under the Queensland Liquor Act. Unlike inter-state licensees who cannot apply for a wine licence or permit in Queensland, craft beer producers licensed interstate can apply for a permit to market their craft beer at promotional events in Queensland.
Once a craft beer producer obtains the necessary authorisation from the Commissioner, the producer will be authorised to market their craft beer at any eligible promotional event in Queensland for the duration of the licence or permit, provided that they obtain the consent of the event organiser. A permit may allow the licensee to attend a nominated event (for example, a particular farmers market held every Saturday) each time the event is held during a period defined in the permit. The period may not exceed three months.
While samples are permitted under the scheme, the Act limits these samples to free samples. This both acts as a significant impost on small brewers to give away product for free and seems to run counter to the RSA provisions that underpin the licensing scheme that focus on advertising pricing and drink discounting. Can the Minister explain the rationale behind this requirement?
Prohibiting licensees from charging for samples of craft beer is consistent with responsible service of alcohol. To ensure the availability of craft beer at promotional events does not significantly increase the risk of harm from the abuse or misuse of alcohol, general on-site consumption at the promotional event is not permitted.
Samples are intended to allow customers to taste a minimal quantity of craft beer in order to determine whether to place a further order for takeaway or home delivery. In this regard, the provision of small samples of a beer for this purpose is not considered equivalent to heavily discounted drinks. Because there is no set limit on the size of samples that can be provided at these types of events, the requirement that samples must be provided free of charge acts as a safeguard against the risk of large ‘samples’ being sold in a manner that would encourage general consumption of craft beer at the event. Accordingly, it is not considered that the requirement for samples to be provided free of charge represents a significant cost impost for licensees.
It should be noted that if a licensee supplies liquor in an irresponsible manner then they will be subject to severe penalties under the Liquor Act.