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