No WOF, no quaff

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Businesswoman warns of liquor licence shock.

Businesses applying for liquor licences may find a surprise stumbling block that’s outside their control.

That’s the warning from long-time Queenstown restaurateur Jan Rae-Robert­son, who’s been applying for a licence for her new Bella Cucina premises in Brecon Street.

She’s had to get a temporary three-month licence from Queenstown Lakes District Council regulator, Lakes Environ­mental – costing $132 – because her landlord didn’t have an up-to-date building warrant of fitness.

“I thought, that’s a bit odd that we’re basically stopped from getting our liquor licence because of something that’s completely outside of our control.

“It’s something that in buying and selling restaurants, that’s never ever thought of.”

QLDC’s liquor licensing policy states that applicants for on and off-licences must have “planning and building compliance” – though there’s not the same onus on a would-be club licence holder.

Rae-Robertson says it’s also not listed on the licence renewal application form.

Her beef that the issue of building compliance is out of a tenant’s control is acknowledged by Lakes Environmental building boss Peter Laurenson.

“Her recourse is with the landlord.”

But he argues building WOFs – carried out by ‘independent qualified professionals’ – do have relevance for licensees.

“It is still pretty important operators know that on these building WOFs there are things like the means of egress, the way of getting out of the building [in an emergency].

“What can happen is they might stack stuff in their exit-way or have an exit door they might padlock for security, overnight, but not have it open during the day.”

Lakes Environmental is chasing up on building WOFs, which are a government requirement and must be renewed annually, Laurenson says.

About 430 Queenstown Lakes commercial buildings require them because of features like lifts, fire sprinklers and the number of occupants. “Even after a couple of reminders, about 107 [owners] haven’t provided them.”

Lakes Environ­mental charges landlords $75 annually for a building WOF but costs associated with tests done, like fire alarm checks, “vary from building to building depending upon how many compliance features they have”, says Laurenson

He adds operators renewing liquor licences still have to confirm a current fire evacuation scheme is in place.

Rae-Robertson says she’ll pass on the cost of her temporary licence to her landlord.