Temporary restrictions placed on liquor sales nationally

01 April, 2020 by Deborah Jackson

Liquor Retailers around the country have made a united decision to introduce temporary limitations on the amount of alcohol a customer can purchase in one transaction.

These measures have been introduced voluntarily and have been led by Retail Drinks Australia to ensure the industry doesn’t experience any disruptions to the supply chain, such as seen within the grocery market.

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Retail Drinks CEO Julie Ryan told TheShout that it was important for the association to take a “leadership position in terms of how alcohol and in particular liquor retailers would be treated into the future”.

The main concern is that there has been a spike in buying and if that spike was sustained over a period of time, there could start to be supply issues.

“The overriding message that we have put through all of our communications is ‘there are no supply issues’. We are putting limits in place, because most people do purchase normally and responsibly, but unfortunately there are some who don’t. This is encouraging all consumers to continue to purchase in normal patterns because there is plenty for all,” says Ryan.

“This is about implementing something, much as the Prime Minister has recommended, which is sustainable, long-term until we are able to revise them and until the world returns to normal. And none of us really knows when that is going to be.

“The reality is nobody ever thought the pub would close, and that’s the situation that we found ourselves in. While we have been in constant contact with all state and territory governments and received assurances through the course of our lobbying that bottle shops will remain open. The reality is we are finding the world changing every day.

“We have just seen cellar doors in South Australia, one of the major heartlands of wine tourism, shut their doors. I don’t think anyone can have any certainty about what will or won’t happen into the future. But taking positive steps to show Government that we are willing to collaborate and we are willing to take leadership positions is one of the best ways we can protect all bottle shops.”

Coles Liquor, Endeavour Drinks, Independent Brands Australia (IBA), Liquor Legends, Urban Cellars and Liquor Stax are taking up these restrictions voluntarily.

In explaining the temporary limits, Ryan notes that explanatory signage would be available within stores and could also be found on the participating retailers’ websites.

“These temporary restrictions are intended to operate per transaction, and are clear and easy for both our retail workers, and consumers, to understand.

“Put simply, each category of drinks, whether it be beer, wine, cider, RTDs or spirits, will have a limit for that category.

“Consumers can purchase up to the total limit in any two product categories.”

Shoppers are limited to two cases of beer or cider, two cases of pre-mix spirit/RTD (note – cases for beer/cider/RTD refer to 24/30 pack); 12 bottles of wine or two casks of wine (not to exceed 10 litres in total); or two bottles of spirits (not to exceed two litres in total).

This initiative does not apply in Western Australia where different regulated limitations on purchasing that were announced last week, continue to apply.

“This is a voluntary initiative and there is a slight quirk with the way that competition law works that a group of competitors are not able to collectively agree to a set of restrictions,” says Ryan.

“So this is being managed through an ACCC authorisation process, and the initial participating members have already obtained ACCC clearance and we are now in the process of seeking additional clearances if others want to opt in.

“The reality is that a range of non-members have already implemented their own restrictions and of course we have mandated restrictions in Western Australia. But the key thing about this was that it was a considered plan and a considered basket of goods, based on information and data regarding normal purchasing behaviours, as to how we could try and smooth and spike and ensure long-term, sustainable and normalised purchasing behaviour.

“We fully recognise that the issue of voluntary restrictions is a polarising one. There are members of the industry who feel very strongly that this should not occur. However, we have taken advice from Government, across all states and territories as well as federally and taken advice from a range of sources. The Board met and considered this and believed it was in the best interests of all liquor retailers to do this.

“Our sole focus is protecting liquor retail and it is highly likely there are some who aren’t solely focused on liquor retail who may disagree with this for other reasons. But it is our strong belief that this will enable us to continue to hold our vision of enhancing the freedom to retail responsibly.”