Australia and of course most developed countries have local, state, and federal laws that address refusing service to customers. Under that law, you cannot discriminate on the basis of protected classes: race, gender, religion, etc. Under Australia federal anti-discrimination laws, businesses can refuse service to any person for any reason, unless the business is discriminating against a protected class.

At the national level, protected classes include race or color, national origin or citizenship status. Having said that, here are the 4 main reasons for refusal of service in Australia;

4 Main Reasons for Refusal of Service in Australia

  1. When The Law Requires It

One of the major reasons for service refusal in Australia is when the law requires that such a person should not be rendered such service. For example, in Australia, if the person is a minor or unduly intoxicated or disorderly, a liquor store or wine bar has the backing of the law to refuse such person services even if they can afford to pay. Another example that readily comes to mind is that a landlord can refuse to rent out his or her apartment to an illegal immigrant.

  1. When The Safety of the Patron is in Jeopardy

Another reason for service refusal in Australia is when the safety of the patron is in jeopardy. In this regard, you just have to make use of your initiative to determine if the patron of the services you are to render will be in jeopardy. For example, a liquor store may refuse services to a patron if they know that their life will be in jeopardy from the consumption of liquor. No doubt, this can be debated hence you must make sure you have evidence or proof that when the patron is offered such services it may endanger his or her life.

  1. When The Safety of Others is in Jeopardy

Similar to when the safety of the patron is in jeopardy, another reason for service refusal in Australia is when the safety of others is going to be in jeopardy if the services are rendered. For example, a liquor store can refuse to offer services to a patron if they know that the safety of others in and around the environment will be in jeopardy from the consumption of liquor.

Again, I will point out that this can be debated hence you must make sure you have evidence or proof that when the patron is offered such services, it may endanger the life of other people in and around the vicinity.

  1. When Licensee Considers it Warranted (Provided it is not Discriminatory)

Lastly, another reason for service refusal in Australia is when the licensee, that is the proprietor, manager, hotelier, innkeeper, or the lessee based on his or her judgment considered it warranted. In doing this, the licensee may make sure that they are not doing based on any discriminatory grounds.

Over and beyond, you should be sure of your reasons for refusal of service and these reasons should not be discriminatory (based on race, gender, etc.). This is so because a patron has the right to take the matter to the Queensland Human Rights Commission if they feel they have been subjected to discrimination.

Remember, if the patron who just walked in is slurring, it does not automatically mean they are unduly intoxicated. The person may have a medical condition. Common sense and tact must be applied in each case. Patrons that are a genuine problem may be banned from licensed premises. There are 4 levels of bans that can be imposed:

  • court-imposed bans
  • police-imposed bans
  • venue bans
  • group venue bans.

The fact that the law gives room for refusing to offer services to ‘some’ customers require to you do not go beyond the established boundaries and here is a guide lists some ‘do’s and don’ts’ of refusing service and explains the different banning orders that may be issued to problem patrons.

Tips On Refusing Service To Patrons

At some point, all liquor licensees will be faced with a decision about refusing to serve alcohol to a patron. Whether this decision is based on legal or safety requirements, it is important to deliver a consistent message that all patrons understand.

Licensees, as part of their risk-assessed management plan, may have a written policy that deals with ‘refusal of service’. This will give staff a clear understanding of their responsibilities and the steps to be taken when refusing to serve patrons. Here are some suggested ‘do’s and don’ts’ of service refusal.

Do’s of Service Refusal in Australia

  1. Do obtain agreement from a supervisor and notify security, if available, before speaking to the patron.
  2. Do be polite and avoid value judgments. Use tact – politely inform the patron you will not serve them any more alcohol.
  3. Do point to posters/signs behind the liquor service point to reinforce your decision.
  4. Do explain the reason for refusal of service (e.g. continued bad language, inappropriate behavior).
  5. Do offer (if appropriate) non-alcoholic beverages instead, or to phone a taxi or a friend to drive them home. It is harder to get angry with someone offering to do something for you.
  6. Do make sure that they leave the premises safely and that they do not hang around outside.
  7. Do enter incidents relating to the refusal of service in a log book, especially those involving threats or aggression.

Don’ts of Service Refusal in Australia

  1. Don’t call your patron a ‘drunk’ – warn them politely that their behavior is unacceptable.
  2. Don’t be persuaded to give them ‘one last drink’ after you have stated that they have had enough.
  3. Don’t agree to let the person finish their drinks (it is an offense under the Liquor Act to allow a minor or unduly intoxicated or disorderly person to consume liquor on licensed premises).
  4. Don’t raise your voice. If they raise theirs, lower yours.
  5. Don’t put off refusal hoping that the patron will leave after the next drink – act while the patron can still be reasoned with.
  6. Don’t think the matter is over because you have verbally addressed it.

In Conclusion;

Whenever you are at the point of making a decision whether to refuse a customer services when they request for it, make sure you are on the side of the law or else, you will pay for it dearly – I know it is not what you would want which is why you must take time to read this article again.

Ajaero Tony Martins