Australia's OTR approved to sell alcohol through its app

South Australia's largest petrol station chain will be able to sell alcohol through its app after a successful appeal to the state's licensing court.

The state's liquor commissioner had earlier this year knocked back an application by OTR to sell delivered alcohol because of concerns it could be used by children and that it would normalise buying alcohol because of the company's focus so far on selling petrol, food and other convenience items.

OTR has more than 160 service stations, along with some convenience stores, in South Australia and north-west Victoria.

In a judgement published by the Licensing Court of South Australia yesterday, Judge Brian Gilchrist said the commissioner's decision was "inconsistent" with approvals for similar direct sales liquor licences granted to Coles and Woolworths.

Judge Gilchrist granted OTR a liquor licence, overturning Commissioner Dini Soulio's decision.

Alcohol is not allowed to be sold in supermarkets or convenience stores in South Australia, but can be sold directly to consumers online or by phone. OTR argued in its initial application made in 2021, that the COVID-19 pandemic had increased the demand for online liquor sales.

It said the app would "include appropriate age verification measures and warnings in respect of the responsible consumption of liquor". People under 18 could not receive deliveries of alcohol even if they ordered it, the company said.

Commissioner Soulio said allowing the application would set an "undesirable precedent, would not be consistent with facilitating the responsible development of the licensed liquor industry, and would tend to normalise the purchase of liquor with other daily staples such as fuel and attractive food items".

"Given the use of the OTR app by minors, this is undesirable and presents an exposure risk that I am not prepared to countenance," he said. He pointed out that Woolworths and Coles sold alcohol online and in-person through other brands, such as Liquorland and BWS, rather than their main brands.

In the appeal, OTR barrister Ben Doyle KC said the commissioner had failed to take into account the public benefit of additional competition and jobs by granting the liquor licence application.

Judge Gilchrist could find no reason to knock back the application, noting that a quadrupling in direct sales licences over the previous decade did not appear to have increase alcohol consumption overall or among minors.

OTR already sells alcohol within several of its Guzman Y Gomez restaurants associated with petrol stations in Adelaide. In a statement, a spokesperson from OTR said they welcomed the court's decision.

"OTR has no immediate plans to commence alcohol sales. However, the decision provides the company with the certainty to plan how and when to provide these products in future," they said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for SA Liquor and Gambling Commissioner Dini Soulio said the commissioner was now considering the outcome of the appeal. "The commissioner is considering the Licensing Court's decision and is unable to comment further at this time," the spokesperson said.