Adelaide nightclub accused of kicking out a patron for not drinking alcohol: Is this legal?

vodka cruiser


An Adelaide man has lodged a formal complaint with South Australia’s liquor and gambling commissioner after a nightclub in the city’s central business district allegedly kicked him out because he was not drinking alcohol.

The man was asked to leave Lava Adelaide when a security guard discovered he was only drinking non-alcoholic drinks.

John, who did not give his last name, told The Advertiserthe nightclub was sending people the wrong message.

“I was quite shocked, because the industry is trying to become more responsible, so I thought they were perhaps doing random checks to see if people were intoxicated, but it was completely the opposite,” John said.

“I should not be discriminated against because I don’t drink. I might not drink because I don’t like drinking, I might have a medical condition or on antibiotics or I might be a designated driver, all of these things weren’t considered by the security guard.”

The South Australian Liquor and Gambling Commissioner is investigating the incident.

Ursula Hogben, principal and general counsel at LegalVision, told SmartCompany as long as the nightclub in question isn’t discriminating against John on the grounds of religion or race then it is not breaking the law.

“There are rules about discriminating against someone’s gender, sexual orientation, marriage, race and religion,” Hogben says.

“If he wasn’t drinking because of his religion, that might be different. Also, if he was clearly visually identifiable as from a particular religion that doesn’t drink alcohol then this could be seen as racial discrimination.”

Hogben says apart from these factors, there is no law saying a business cannot discriminate against someone who is not drinking. 

“A nightclub is someone’s private business, not a public space,” she says.

“So as long as they’re not breaching any discrimination rules, then they are not actually breaking the law.”

Emma Jervis, also a principal at LegalVision, told SmartCompany whether or not the man in this case paid to enter the nightclub could affect his case.

“That could raise an issue where there was a contract formed whereby he was entitled to remain in the premises because he had paid for that privilege,” Jervis says.

Hogben, meanwhile, says the lesson here for small businesses is all about goodwill and reputation.

“You want people to feel comfortable in your business and there’s a public policy to not only admit non-drinkers but to actually encourage them,” Hogben says.

“Some bars have free soft drink for the designated driver. It’s about the bigger picture.”

SmartCompany contacted Lava Adelaide for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.


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