With groundbreaking state variations to the National Construction Code commencing in May this year as well as the current comprehensive review of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 and the proposed Planning Development and Infrastructure Bill 2015 currently before the Parliament, there have been important developments in advocating for coordinated regulation for low risk entertainment use underway in South Australia.

Governments are very good at defining and regulating entertainment uses for ‘high risk’, but much less forthcoming when it comes to regulating low risk activity.

What we don’t have, is a first rung in the ladder for new entrants to dip their toe into presenting small scale live music and performance.

  • In liquor licensing controls, many states and territories have late trading codes, lockouts and cease service restrictions in place, but only Victoria has a low risk definition for live music venues and an exemption for 200 capacity venues from the Melbourne Liquor Freeze,
  • The Assembly Building definition in the National Construction Code has a clause specifying a discotheque, nightclub or a bar area of a hotel or motel providing live entertainment or containing a dance floor as requiring theatre level 9Bfire safety, but only NSW and SA (to come) have a variation exempting these uses from 9B.
  • Only Victoria has a regulation that exempts certain size venues from Assembly Building compliance under the National Construction Code, and no states and territories have a lowest risk schedule of acts or activities that are exempt or complying for the definition of development (more on this later).

For more on the regulation of venues for building compliance, read the Live Music Office Live Music Venues and the Building Code of Australia Issues Paper.

The Live Music Office and the Music Industry in South Australia are advocating for a tiered risk framework across liquor licensing and planning controls, that would lead the way for a coordinated national approach to low risk live music and performance policy.

A tiered risk response to Planning and the National Construction Code:

  1. Exempt and complying development for designated (low risk) entertainment standards.
  2. Temporary use and pop-up events
  3. Assembly building variation for ancillary entertainment in pubs, restaurants and bars
  4. Small venue class 6 BCA variation (low risk) like SA that designates floor area and vertical travel of floors.
  5. 9B Assembly Building (high risk)

Liquor Licensing

  • Limited licenses (one off events)
  • BYO Arts and Cultural Venue
  • Restaurant
  • Small Venues Licence
  • Hotel
  • Entertainment Venue
  • Special Circumstances

Exempt and complying development is a key part of the recipe. In September 2015 the Live Music Office published the Low Risk Arts and Cultural Venues report that tabled the rationale behind the need for certain entertainment activities to be designated exempt or complying development, and the recipe for how to achieve it!. We don’t require development consent for televisions for example, or many recorded music activities – so why should the planning system automatically kick in if the entertainment is provided by a person?

For South Australia, this would mean inserting a low risk and impact specification into Schedule 3 of the Development Regulations that would identify conditions around;

  • Size
  • Hours of operation
  • Compliance with noise conditions
  • Capacity

These could be considered ‘acts and activities which are not development‘ for the purposes of land use consent. This is discussed in detail through pages 22 and 23 of the report.

The proposed changes would create affordable and accessible small venues, and enable urban renewal initiatives like creative hubs for community centres and local government, pop up events for festivals, and encourage in-store performances in record stores, music schools and retail, supporting much greater participation and diversity in the performing arts.

In the Liquor Licensing Discussion Paper, the government have requested bold, brave and innovative ideas! In response, we are advocating for some additional options for entry level and low risk entertainment liquor licenses including a BYO licence option for arts and cultural venues.

The BYO arts and cultural venues liquor licence would be to encourage start-up theare, gallery and live music presentation. The proposal recognises that there are creative practitioners across music, theatre and the visual arts who don’t actually want to find themselves running small bars or nightclubs. They want to devote their energies to putting on the best live music or theatre they can without the burdensome responsibilities of running fully licensed premises.

Its important to note here that there is also a great deal of work underway to support existing venues at this time from the South Australian Live Music Regulation Roundtable, including the end of entertainment consents in the Liquor Licensing Act, the new National Construction Code state variations, and the live music regulation best practice and red tape reduction review.

Governments are very good at defining and regulating entertainment uses for ‘high risk’, but much less forthcoming when it comes to regulating low risk activity. Hopefully we will see these options progress in 2016 to support industry development, and entry for younger entrepreneurs, to try new models, and bring young and diverse audiences and presenters to better support the broader live music and performance scene.