Legislative limits on trading hours for licensed premises have a long history in Australia as a key policy approach to managing alcohol-related problems. In recent years, following substantial extensions to permitted hours of sale, there has been renewed attention to policies aimed at reducing late-night trading hours.
Restrictions on on-premise alcohol sales have been implemented in Australia after 3.30 am in Newcastle, and after 3 am in Kings Cross and the Sydney central business district in New South Wales. In July 2016, similar restrictions were introduced state-wide after 2 am, or 3 am in ‘safe night precincts’, in Queensland. Similar policy changes have occurred internationally (e.g. in the UK and the Nordic countries) and there is a growing body of research examining the impacts of trading hour policies on alcohol-related harm. Although there has been a series of reviews of the research in this area, the most recent is now 5 years old and limited to studies published before March 2008.
The ongoing public discussion about trading hours policy in Australia can benefit from an up-to-date and comprehensive review of the research. This paper outlines a systematic review of the literature to examine recent (2005–2015) research about the impact of changing the hours of sale of alcohol on alcohol-related harms.
The search identified twenty-one studies, including seven from Australia. A series of robust, well-designed Australian studies demonstrate that reducing the hours during which on-premise alcohol outlets can sell alcohol late at night can substantially reduce rates of violence. The Australian studies are supported by a growing body of international research.
The paper concludes that the evidence of effectiveness is strong enough to consider restrictions on late trading hours for bars and hotels as a key approach to reducing late-night violence in Australia.