The issue and registration of Liquor licences in Victoria
From the time of first permanent settlement in Victoria licences authorising the sale and supply of liquor were granted by justices of the peace at Annual General Licensing Meetings held in June every year.
Following the English tradition of heavy control and excise of the licensing trade, over 40 Acts and Statutes were passed by the Victorian legislature between 1852 and the turn of the century.
The Act 3 Wm IV, No.8 (June 1833) provided for a General Meeting of the justices acting in and for each district in the Colony to be held in June each year and to be called the General Annual Licensing Meeting for the special purpose of considering all applications for licences for public houses. Three justices at least were required to be present. The justices were empowered to grant certificates authorising the issue of a licence. These certificates and the fee were then required to be lodged with the office of the Collector of Internal Revenue (Colonial Treasurer, New South Wales) who upon receipt would issue and register the licences. The Act also established Special General Sessions of the justices for the transferring of licences. All offences under the Act were to be heard at Courts of Quarter Sessions.
The Act 8 Wm IV, No.8 (1837) provided for the application of the 1833 legislation in the newly established Port Phillip District and empowered an officer, to be appointed by the Governor-in-Council, to issue publicans licences in lieu of the Colonial Treasurer in Sydney. The first officer authorised to do so was the Police Magistrate, Port Phillip District, William Lonsdale in September 1837. However by 1839 the Sub-Treasurer had been appointed to issue licences for the Port Phillip District. The Act regulating the sale and supply of liquor in the Port Phillip District at time of separation in 1851 was 13 Vic.,No.29 (1849). This Act did not substantially alter the liquor licensing law, continuing the system of General Annual Licensing Meetings within each district for the hearing of applications for licences but allowing for a bench of two justices of the peace when a third was unavailable. The Act provided for three types of licences, a publican's general licence, a packet licence (ship) and a confectioner's licence. The latter licence was confined to the sale of spruce beer and ginger beer. An 1854 Act 17 Vic.,No.24 provided for the registration of spirit merchants. Act 25 Vic.,No.147 (1862) introduced a requirement for distiller's licences, wine grower's and brewer's licences. Licensing Benches in Courts of Petty Sessions In 1864, all then existing statutes were repealed and replaced by the Wines, Beer and Spirits Sale Act 1864 27 Vic.,No.227 which first introduced the single bottle or grocer's licence to be held only by a spirit merchant. This Act abolished the General Annual Licensing Meetings and provided for the granting and transferring of licences to be a judicial proceeding within any sitting of the Court of Petty Sessions within a district.
Under the provisions of the Wines, Beers and Spirits Sale Act 1870 (34Vic.,No.390) the power to grant licences to be issued under the Act within each district was restricted to a Licensing Bench composed of a stipendiary magistrate and two other justices of the peace, nominated by the majority of and from amongst the justices resident within each licensing district. All applications for the granting, renewal, transfer or forfeiture of licences were to be heard by these appointed magistrates. Quarterly licensing meetings were to be held at each of the courts of petty sessions within a licensing district each year. Magistrate's were bound to give a months notice of the licensing meetings in the Government Gazette. The Act also allowed a municipal body to object to the granting of a licence in a district where there were already a sufficient number of licensed premises. The Act provided that on such an objection a poll should be taken in the neighbourhood, introducing for the first time the concept of the reduction of liquor licences. Licensing Courts were also supported, from 1876, by Inspectors of Liquor whose job it was to maintain the standard of liquor sold to the public and to ensure that it was unadulterated and fit for consumption. The position was apparently joined with that of Inspectors of Distilleries (Licensed Premises) and operated within the Trade and Customs area as part of the excise and customs function.
In the years 1900 to 1901 when the customs function passed to the Commonwealth the Inspectors of Liquor were placed under the authority of the Minister of Public Health The function has apparently remained with the Health portfolio and although there were no Inspectors of Liquor as such post c1978 the duties may possibly still be undertaken as part of the general health investigations area. District Licensing Courts The Licensing Act 1885 (40 Vic.,No.857) replaced the previous Licensing Benches with a separate Licensing Court for each licensing district to be constituted by three police magistrates except in the districts of Melbourne, Geelong and Sandhurst (Bendigo) where the chairman of the court was to be a County Court Judge. The Act also subjected licensed premises to the control and supervision of a Licensing Inspector who was empowered both to inspect premises and to give such reports and make orders as would ensure the maintenance of standards. Licensing Inspectors were appointed from the police force by the Governor. The Licensing Court would send duplicates of all certificates for licenses granted to the Treasurer, who continued to register and issue all liquor licenses. All fees, fines, penalties and forfeitures were to be paid to the Treasurer to be placed in a trust fund called the Licensing Act 1885 Fund which was to be applied to the carrying out of the provisions of the Act. The Licensing Courts had jurisdiction over all matters relating to: the granting or refusal of all applications for licences to be issued under the provisions of the Act the revocation, forfeiture, or cancellation of such licences the imposition of penalties authorised by the Act hearings of appeals from inspector's orders the disqualification of licensed persons and premises. The 1870 legislation empowered the licensing magistrate to approve or refuse all applications for entertainment licences for licensed premises and required the magistrate to forward lists of all applications to the agency responsible, the Chief Secretary's Department Licensing Court of Victoria The Licensing Act 1916 (No.2855) made provision for the concentration of the whole jurisdiction with regard to the granting of licences and their control and supervision under the newly constituted Licensing Court of Victoria (ss.34-37). The new Court consisted of three magistrates, where formerly this function had been administered throughout Victoria by twenty police magistrates and three County Court judges Each of the persons holding office as a member of the Licences Reduction Board was, under the Act, immediately deemed to have been appointed a Licensing Magistrate (s.35). Centralised administration was achieved with the appointment of the Secretary of the Licences Reduction Board as the Registrar of the new court. The system of licensing inspectors was continued, the duties of inspecting premises and enforcing the provisions of the Act being undertaken by nominated members of the police force who were not to be below the rank of sub-inspector. An additional duty of the inspectors was to submit an annual report to the Court. Hearings were held on a circuit basis in courts of petty sessions appointed by the Governor-in-Council as licensing courts to serve various licensing districts. Notification of the annual sittings of the courts and their location appeared in the Government Gazettes. The clerks of such courts would undertake the role of Licensing Clerk and would administer all licensing business in the locality and report directly to the Registrar of the Licensing Court. Prior to the passing of the Licensing Amendment Act 1922 (No.3259) there were two hundred and seventeen licensing districts in Victoria each consisting of one division of an electoral district. However section six of the new legislation provided that an entire electoral district should be the licensing district, thereby reducing the number to sixty-five. The Licensing Court had jurisdiction over all matters relating to: (the granting or refusal of all applications for licences to be issued under the provisions of the Act; ( the revocation ,forfeiture, or cancellation of such licences; (the imposition of penalties authorised by the Act; (hearings of appeals from inspector's orders; (the disqualification of licensed persons and premises.
The 1922 Act also empowered the Court to approve plans and to order the provision of additional accommodation and improvements where it thought them desirable section fourteen. Victorian Licensing Court The Victorian Licensing Court came into operation on 30 June 1954. It was constituted under the Licensing Amendment Act 1953 (No.5767) and assumed the functions of the Licensing Court of Victoria. The new Court was to be under the Chairmanship of a Judge of the County Court, the two other members being magistrates, with tenure extended from three to seven years (s.8). The Act also made provision for the appointment of a Supervisor of Licenced Premises (s.11) who was aided by nine assistant supervisors. The duties of the office included examining and reporting upon the nature and extent of hotel accommodation for the public and the provision made for the supply of meals and refreshments in hotels; consulting with licensing inspectors on proposed plans for new licensed premises, or alterations and extensions to existing hotels and clubs and reporting to the Court re same; and generally assisting the Licensing Court (s.11.2-4). The new Supervisor's Department of the Victorian Licensing Court was staffed by members of the Police Force. The Court had complete jurisdiction over the granting, transfer, cancellation and supervision of all liquor licences, with authority to impose penalties, hear evidence taken under oath and administer all related permits. Under the new legislation the functions of the Court were extended to include the control and supervision of "sanitation, hygiene, ventilation, cooling, heating, fire prevention and the cleanliness of food in all licensed premises". For the purpose of reviewing licences annually the Licensing Court held Annual Sittings usually in November and December. Applications for renewal were made by all licensees , country licensees setting down their applications with the Licensing Clerk for that particular area. A magistrate held a sitting on the appointed day in the Court House at each of the prescribed centres. The Court was not restricted as to the number of licences that it had the power to grant, the State having been constituted as one licensing district by the 1953 legislation (s.2). In the event of a cancellation of a licence the Court sat as the Licences Reduction Board in order to fix compensation. In 1968, the Victorian Licensing Court was abolished and the Liquor Control Commission (VA 1110) assumed all the responsibilities associated with liquor licensing in Victoria.
Public Record Office of Victoria