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Alcohol at your Events

To keep the community safe, alcohol is regulated in NZ by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. If you’re running a club and throwing events, it’s important to know the law so you can avoid any trouble. Of particular importance are the provisions:

Use of unlicensed premises as place of resort for consumption of alcohol.

A place of resort is any place where people go to drink alcohol. This does not necessarily mean that drinking alcohol is the main activity, but that it is a significant part of the situation.

Hint – if there is an alcohol related incident, it’s more likely than not that alcohol has formed a significant part of the situation.

Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 – Section 235

How do alcohol laws apply to your events?

You need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is alcohol consumption the main or a significant part of the event?
  • Are attendees being charged any sort of fee?
    • Note – if you charge for membership, this may include an event that is made members.
  • Could this event come to the attention of Police due to the probable / possible behaviour of attendees?
    • In other words how many people will be attending – and for a party at a private residence remember this is always potentially a concern.
  • Could the event happen successfully without alcohol?

If you answer “yes” to the first three points and “no” to the last then it is likely that you need a licence for the event. This means either holding the event in a premise that already has a licence, like Haere-roa, or by applying for a Special Licence for a public area or venue.

Free/cheap drinks: Alcohol promotion and your event 


You cannot advertise a drink discount greater than 25% off its normal price in your external marketing (e.g. Facebook posts and posters on campus). However, once attendees arrive at your event, you can promote the deal within the venue during the event (e.g. a table topper/poster at the bar). Any signage or advertising promoting a discount greater than 25% must not be visible from outside the venue.

Free drinks 

You can provide beverages to your attendees free of charge once they have arrived at the venue, but you cannot advertise this externally (e.g. as part of your ticket sales marketing on Facebook). Liquor licensing would interpret that act as you charging money for the drink, which you could only do if you hold a liquor license. 

If you do offer free alcohol during your event, there is an expectation that free food would also be provided to meet host responsibility requirements. 

Host Responsibility 

Any event involving alcohol needs to meet national guidelines for the responsible service of alcohol. For example, advertising ‘Drink ’til you drown’ promotes excessive drinking and would not meet these guidelines.   


It is recommended that all advertising should publicly state that photographic age identification is required to purchase or consume alcohol. Acceptable forms of identification are:  

  1. A valid New Zealand Driver’s Licence (drivers licences from overseas are not acceptable) 
  1. A Hospitality NZ 18+ / KiwiAccess card 
  1.  A valid Passport 
    photocopies, photos and scans of the above are not acceptable forms of ID. 
    A University of Canterbury ID card may be an additional requirement. 

Special Licences

If you intend to book a venue other than Haere-roa (We are fully licenced) for an event, you may need to apply for a special licence. Please chat to the venue operator for more information.

To see details around Special Licences in Christchurch head to the Christchurch City Council Website.

Some key points apply however:

  • You cannot get a special licence for private residences – so that means you cannot licence your flat or home.
  • You must apply for a special licence at least 20 working days prior to the event date.
  • You cannot allow BYO under a special licence.

Consequences of getting it wrong

Generally it will only be when an event gets out of hand that police will become involved in cleaning up the mess.

If you are running an illegal event and something really bad happens are you confident you are not exposed to any criminal liability?

Someone convicted of operating a ‘place of resort’ is liable to a fine of not more than $20,000.

In the case of serious incident occurring as a result of the actions or omissions of the organiser there are other far more serious offences contained in the Crime Act 1961.

If in doubt, get in touch with us for a conversation. We’re happy to help.

Updated on January 12, 2024

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