On Tuesday 17 November the South Australian Parliament unanimously passed changes to South Australian liquor laws to remove the capacity for liquor licenses to require consent for entertainment between 11am and midnight.

The entertainment consent was a significant barrier to jobs and opportunities for performers in South Australia, with a process that regulated days, times, permitted artists, instruments and genres within venues.

Chair of the Music Industry Council and General Manager of Fresh 92.7 FM Troy Sincock said,

This is exciting news for live music in this state. The safe passage of the Liquor Licensing Amendment Bill removes the biggest barrier to the live music sector and signals a strong step forward for the South Australian music industry. The Music Industry Council is enthused to see the State Government, Adelaide City Council and industry working together to achieve this result. The impact of the bill will be tangible both economically and culturally.

Whilst the Liquor Licensing (Entertainment on Licensed Premises) Amendment Bill 2015 removes the capacity for liquor licence conditions to regulate entertainment between 11am and midnight, prescribed entertainment, including that of an adult nature, will still require consent, as will entertainment after midnight and before 11am.

The process under section 106 of the Act relating to noise complaints will remain unchanged.

To give an idea of how the consent process operated, examples of licence conditions included:

  1. The OOSTENDE BELGIAN BEER CAFE. Condition 12. Approved instruments include and specify Harps and Didgeridoo
  2. The OVERWAY HOTEL. Condition 4. “There shall be no rock/heavy metal bands/disco music.”
  3. The 2006 HIGHER GROUND Entertainment Venue Licence (EVL). Condition 3 (ii). Approved genres specify “Andean, Ancient Greek, Christian Country, Indian Asian, Latin Freestyle, Gregorian Chant, Medieval, Opera, Polka, Blue Grass (two words…)”

With broadcast sport, recorded video and music not considered entertainment for the purposes of the legislation, maximum penalties for venues in breach of consent conditions were $10,000 for a first offence, $20,000 for a second or subsequent offences under the LIQUOR LICENSING ACT 1997 – SECT 105 —Entertainment on licensed premises.

Extensive advocacy had been undertaken to raise this issue with the South Australian Government in recent years. Robust campaigning in 2012 from the live music sector was underway as the small venues licence was established, with an associated targeted private member’s bill from Tammy Franks and references in the  2013 Future of Music in South Australia report from Martin Elbourne.

In early 2015 the South Australian Music Industry Council comprising members from industry, the Music Development Office (Arts SA, Department of State Development), The Australian Hotels Association, Adelaide City Council, Musitec, MusicSA and the Live Music Office submitted a five point plan across liquor, building code and planning regulation to the Premier. Liquor licence entertainment consents were the first priority for action in the co-ordinated position paper to better align the operation of government agencies and regulation in South Australia.

Hansard from the Legislative Council from speeches supporting the law reform recognise the contribution of upper house members The Hon. John Gazzola and The Hon. Tammy Franks in progressing the legislation, and that of the Music Industry Council, Ian Horne and Wendy Bevan from the Hotels Association, Becc Bates and Karen Marsh from the Music Development Office, Music SA, the Musician’s Union, SLAM, and Ianto Ware and John Wardle from the Live Music Office.

Live Music Office Policy Director John Wardle said

“This is a most important reform for South Australia, to hopefully bring a new foundation for nurturing the venue based live music economy. What is certain is that so much of the good work being done by the South Australian music industry and government would not be able to reach its potential were these laws to remain in place, recognising that no other Australian state or territory had these regulations.

“If we look back to NSW in 2007 and the changes to liquor laws that introduced new bars and licensed restaurants, the key to the activation of these and existing venues for live performance were including associated changes to the building code and planning regulations. It’s therefore greatly encouraging to recognise the ongoing work with government and the Music Industry Council in this area throughout this year, that will also bring new planning regulations to support the Liquor Act reforms into 2016”.

In a statement from Music SA, General Manager and Music Industry Council member Lisa Bishop said

“Music SA welcomes the removal of Entertainment Consent from the Liquor Licensing Act 1997. It’s something the music industry identified as one of the key barriers to increasing performance opportunities for artists. Taking away the entertainment consent will remove a lot of frustrating restrictions that exist upon current licensees in South Australia in terms of instrument and genres restrictions. It is another step towards encouraging local business to incorporate live music in their business models’.

Former Chair of the Music Industry Council and Managing Director of Musitec David Grice said

We are excited by the news that the proposed changes to the entertainment consent have been fully endorsed by the South Australian Government. This represents a massive win for live music in SA and will affect not only musicians but venues also.  We expect to see a boost to the night time economy and jobs for musicians.

The work of the Music Industry Council has been pivotal to these reforms along with the highly valued input of the National Live Music Office. Its important to also acknowledge the persistence of many people behind the scenes who have been working on these reforms for many years now. Particularly the Hon Tammy Franks, John Gazzola, the members of the Music Industry Council and the Music Development office.

While this is a significant step forward for South Australia much is still to be done to further reduce red tape and encourage a more buoyant industry in South Australia.