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There’ll be No Show till Council says Go! Getting Permits and Licences in Order!

There’ll be No Show till Council says Go! Getting Permits and Licences in Order!

You’ve decided that you're ready to take the next step and purchase that restaurant, cafe, bar, pub or even a food truck, or you have found a great premises that you want to renovate and turn into your own vision and dream. Congratulations!  It’s a big step and an exciting journey.

Before you sign on the dotted line there are key steps that you need to know and do prior to taking over any lease, which is especially important if you want to build or renovate. The first step always involves talking to and dealing with your local council.  Regardless of what state in Australia you will be setting up shop, the core principles are all very similar.

The key things required when taking over an existing hospitality business or setting up a new hospitality business involves the following:

  • Contacting your local council and introduce yourself to your council’s Environmental Health Officer
  • Food Handler Certificate and Food Safety Supervisor requirements
  • What to do when you want to build or renovate a business
  • Transferring Business Registration or Registering a new Business Name
  • Transferring an existing Liquor Licence that came with the business

As the new owner, you will need to get to know and befriend your local council and Environmental Health Officer. Every premises that sells food is required to work with council and comply to operating within the standard Health & Food Safety Guidelines.

Food Safety Accreditation
Food businesses must have a nominated Food Safety Supervisor and any staff member handling food within the business must have completed a Food Handler Course. 

The nominated Food Safety Supervisor role is usually carried out by the business owner, chef, cook or manager. If you will be hands on and working most of the time, or if you are lucky enough to have a full time manager, then they can be delegated this role. 

The assigned Environmental Health officer from your local Council works in conjunction with the Food Safety Supervisors to ensure that the required Food Safety program has been implemented in the business and is being followed by staff.

A food safety program is a written document that shows how a business is managing the safety of the food prepared, served, manufactured or sold. The council will provide you all of these documents.

Obtaining Food Safety Credentials 

To become a Food Safety Supervisor and for staff to obtain a Food Handler’s certificate, you and your staff will need to complete a course at an RTO - Registered Training Organisation. A registered training organisation (RTO), in Australia, is an organisation providing Vocational Education and Training (VET) to students, resulting in qualifications or statements of attainment that are recognised and accepted by industry and other educational institutions throughout Australia.

To find a RTO that runs the Food Handler certificate and Food Safety Supervisor is easily found by a google search. There are many RTO’s that offer these courses online and don’t take too much time.  However, from my personal experience, do a course that you attend in person.  It is a great half day of training where you get to hear a lecturer and talk with like minded people.

Any questions or grey area’s that arise are covered on the spot and it is just so much more re-assuring than sitting in front of a laptop on your own.  Heck, you even get morning or afternoon tea!  

Visit the Australian Institute of Food Safety website that provides accredited RTO’s within each state to complete these courses.  The RTO’s listed are nationally recognised, ensuring that you meet all your food safety training legal obligations.

Setting up a New Building or Renovating an Existing Business:
If you are planning build or wanting to extensively renovate an existing venue in any state, again it’s best before you even purchase the business to begin consulting with council first to ensure that the premises, or your planned renovation is suitable and complies with code. Councils can also provide advice on starting your business, setting up or buying your new food premises, and help you through the building or purchasing process.  

You’ll need to complete an application form and submit the proposed business and floor plans to your local council. 

Ensure that your floor plan has the following information:

  • Show the layout of all fixtures, fittings and equipment.  
  • Provide a description of the materials that will be used for surface finishes including walls, floors and benchtops.
  • Show the locations of the waste disposal areas, bin washing areas, storage areas and toilets.

After assessing your application, you will then be advised if you need to make any changes or if you’re all good to go. Note: be prepared for council to advise minor tweaks and changes to your plan.  Don’t be disheartened, it's all part of the process.

Transferring the Registration of an Existing Business.

Existing Business: Contact your local council who will send you a “Transfer of Business Registration’ form which you will need to complete.

You will also need to contact ASIC to complete a Change of Business Name Ownership. This will transfer the business’s registration from the previous owner’s name to yours. You will also need to submit a food safety program and the details of who will be your Food Safety Supervisor in your business.

Renaming the business, If you want to change the name of the business, contact ASIC and follow the guide on how to Register A Business Name.  Once your new business name is registered, you then will need to contact your council to complete the “Transfer of Business Registration’ form which is provided by your council, including a submission of a food safety program and the details of the Food Safety Supervisor that’ll be nominated in your business.

Once the council is happy that your application meets all food safety requirements, you will then be provided with a transfer of registration certificate.

Transferring an existing Liquor Licence.
Liquor licences within each state are independently operated and governed. However, in most cases regardless of the few variables and conditions in each state, you will need to submit at minimum the required information to complete the transfer. You will also need to complete a RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) course which provides training for Licensees and staff selling, offering or serving liquor for general, on-premises, late night and packaged liquor licences. 

To get ready for the application process ensure that you have the following information:

  • Completed application form and licensing fees
  • Current Police Record Check
  • Character References
  • Details of the business to be transferred.
  • Details of the proposed new Licensee.
  • Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) Certificate
  • A maximum patron capacity report from a registered building surveyor (this is generally required if there is no patron capacity noted on the licence).
  • Proof of business ownership and settlement/handover date.

NOTE: During the process of transferring a liquor licence, the proposed Licensee cannot supply alcohol until you receive a provisional Licence or the transfer application is granted. In all cases, significant penalties apply for the sale of liquor by an unlicensed person.

Handy Resources:

To save you time trying to find your local council, complete a RSA course or transferring your liquor license, detailed below are the relevant links for each state to get you started in the right direction.

Find My Local Council:  

VIC  |  NSW  |  QLD |  SA  |  WA  |  NT  |  TAS  

Responsible Service of Alcohol Courses (RSA):  

Victoria is the only state in Australia that you cannot complete this course online. Face-to-face RSA training is mandatory for Licensees.

VIC   |  NSW   |  QLD |  SA  |  WA  |  NT  |  TAS    

Liquor License Transfer:  

VIC  |   NSW  |  QLD |  SA  |  WA  |  NT  |  TAS  

By Barb Kais |

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