Ask LH: Do Restaurants Have To Serve A Meal To Sell You Booze?

Dear Lifehacker, On the weekend I travelled up to Perth for a family event and found myself at the Little Creatures Brewery on Friday night for some drinks and dinner. Upon arriving I was informed that I'd need to buy a 'substantial' meal before I was allowed to drink anything alcoholic.

Didn't really matter as I planned on eating anyway. Later on in the night I was told that I was allowed to only order three drinks per meal. My question is this: is this a legal practice? Repeated enquiries with the staff there couldn't tell me if this was a law or just good Friday policy. In the end it didn't really affect me, but I don't like being on someone else's terms when I go out for a meal and a few drinks. What's the go here? Thanks, Drinking Diner

Picture: Adam Sellwood

Dear DD,

You might not like it, but you're always on "someone else's terms" when you dine out. If a restaurant decided that you can only order a particular wine by the bottle, for example, you're effectively stuck with that requirement. It's often not good business sense to make life difficult for customers, but if you don't like the ordering conditions around alcohol (or anything else), the basic legal view is: go and dine somewhere else.

In answer to your question: the need to order a meal in order to be served drinks is definitely a legal requirement, but the exact detail of "three drinks per meal" is more likely to be the restaurant's way of enforcing that requirement.

Liquor licensing laws vary from state to state, but the restriction that restaurants can only serve alcoholic drinks if they are accompanied with a meal is a fairly common one in Australia. In Western Australia, the Liquor Control Act 1988 sets out the requirements for a restaurant which wants to serve alcohol. The act emphasises that serving meals must be the primary focus of the business: it can't exist largely to serve booze, even if it's attached to a brewery.

Licensing conditions can be set with specific terms (such as operating hours for bars), but it's unlikely that the 'three drinks per meal' requirement is actually written into the Little Creatures licence. A more probable explanation is that the restaurant uses that policy to stop customers simply ordering a single plate of chips and six schooners to dodge the meal requirement. Again, that's a business decision, based on the margins that apply to food and liquor and the need to respect the licence conditions.

The lesson? If you mainly want to drink, head to a pub. If you want to drink and dine, order a meal each and you'll be fine.

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


    This is due to to the restrictions applied by the government on the sale of alcohol on good friday. Little creatures in freo holds a tavern license meaning they can only serve alcohol with a meal. More info is here:

    I've done some training in liquor licensing and have never heard of the three drinks policy, but as a guess I would say it is to maximise profits whilst 'kind of' adhering to the laws.

    How do pubs and bars get away with serving only alcohol? Do they fall under a different category?

      Yes pubs and bars will have a different liquor license to restaurants. However I think little creatures does have the same license as most pubs (a tavern license) as normally you can purchase drinks without food. The key issue on this occasion, as Mattt pointed out, was that it was good Friday. On good Friday pubs and bars are not allowed to trade however it seems Little Creatures was able to trade as a restaurant.

      And as noted in the article this all varies by state

      Wow, at which point in the article exactly did you stop reading...?

    The laws regarding this recently changed, they are no longer obligated to do so (though can still do it as a matter of policy) from what I understand, though as Matt says above - could have also been due to Good Friday.

    Can't find a source link at hand for the legal changes, sorry.

      They did not change the law for all licenses, they added a new "small bar* license.
      Not all venues have this license, and all liquor licenses are awarded at the discretion of the local government.

    I remember going to a techno rave years ago that was on a good friday and they had to give out little boxes of salads and cold meats out to people coming through the doors.
    It seemed like a waste because no one was eating them and very few drinking that was the reason of their existence to satisfy some licensing law.

    On good Friday in NSW pubs can sell booze but you have to have the kitchen open. Strictly no takeaways. Breweries and vinyards (producers) are the only places that can sell takeaway grog, or you can drink there too. As we did at the fantastic Murray's Brewery up near Port Stephens.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now