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PROVguide 35: Hotels and Liquor Licensing

Land, Places and Local History – Hotels and Liquor Licensing

Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds a range of records that document hotel and liquor licensing in Victoria.  The sale of liquor has been regulated since the beginnings of colonial administration in Victoria.  Initially, a system of annual general licensing meetings within each licensing district was established with licences granted by justices of the peace.  From 1864 to 1886 district Licensing Benches were constituted in Courts of Petty Sessions within each district.  Licensing infringements can be found in the records of the various Courts of Petty Sessions for this time period.  Search using the Victorian Record Group VRG 4 Courts on PROV’s online catalogue at for further information.

From 1876, district Licensing Courts were established across Victoria to hear applications for new licences, licence renewals, transfers, extensions and other functions in the regulation of liquor licensing. The prime records of these courts are the Registers of Licence Applications.  Search by the Victorian Agency VA 2870 Licensing Courts on PROV’s online catalogue for further information.

Since 1886, various courts and government departments have had responsibility for the regulation of liquor licensing in Victoria.  For more information about the history of the administration of liquor licensing in Victoria and related records, see the entries for Victorian Functions VF 302 Liquor Licences, issue and registration of and VF 94 Liquor Licensing on PROV’s online catalogue.

Main Series Relating to Hotels and Liquor Licensing

This is a select list of the most widely used series for research into hotels and liquor licensing in Victoria.  To locate information on PROV’s online catalogue about other liquor licensing records held by PROV, search by the Victorian Function VF 302 Liquor Licences, issue and registration of and  VF 94 Liquor Licensing

VPRS 7601 Licensing Register – Metropolitan 1853 – 1982

These registers record proceedings regarding liquor licence applications for premises in the Melbourne metropolitan area, under successive licensing authorities.   Register entries are arranged chronologically by date of licence registration. Keep in mind that what was rural or metropolitan may have changed over time.

Note that the register for the period 1897 to 1906 is not in PROV custody.



VPRS 7601/P1 Unit 19


VPRS 7602 Licensing Register – Country 1917 – 1981

Licensing Registers for country areas appear not to have commenced until 1917.  Some entries for country areas will be found in VPRS 7601, Metropolitan Registers.  The registers record proceedings regarding liquor licence applications for Country districts.  Country licensing registers are arranged chronologically by date of licence registration.

Note that registers covering the years 1925-1954 are not in PROV custody. 



VPRS 7602/P1Unit 8


For country licences issued prior to 1917, consult local Court of Petty Sessions records (See VRG 4 Courts).  Some early court records relating to liquor licensing in the Central Highlands and parts of the Wimmera and Grampians regions of Victoria are held at the Ballarat Archives Centre.

VPRS 7603 Licensing Registers – Particular Occasion Permits, Metropolitan and Country 1969 – 1988

A Particular Occasion Permit (P.O.P) allows for an extension of time for serving liquor at a special occasion, for example New Year’s Eve or a wedding.  P.O.P’s are granted to both licensed and unlicensed clubs and hotels and restaurants.  The arrangement is chronological within the registers with some single volumes recording specific license types at various intervals.

VPRS 7604 Registers of Owners of Licensed Premises – Convictions 1886 – 1939

The register records offences against the Licensing Act 1885.  Volumes 1-7 cover metropolitan licensees, and volume 8 records country convictions.  Early registers are by date order and register entries from 1896 are arranged alphabetically by the name of the premises. 

VPRS 7596 Wine, Spirit and Sundry Licences Registers – Metropolitan and Country 1898 – 1918

The registers contain various types of licenses including liquor licenses for Melbourne, metropolitan and country Victoria.

VPRS 7712 License Case Files (sample only retained) ?1968 – 1987

This series consists of a sample of files relating to licences which had run continuously for a period greater than 30 years.  The sample includes one file of each licence type (hotels, retail bottled liquor outlets and cabarets) randomly selected from every fifth year.  Files in this series contain documentation relating to the original licence application and to any subsequent applications, transfers or amendments and are listed alphabetically by file title, ie name of hotel.

Licence Reductions

The reduction of hotel licences in Victoria commenced under the Licensing Act 1885.  Under this legislation, no licences could be granted in a district where the statutory number had been exceeded and where this occurred, reduction could be effected by a local option poll. Compensation was to be paid to the owners and licensees of closed hotels out of a compensation fund, entitled the Licensing Fund, revenue for which was derived from fees and fines.

This function was performed by the VA 2870 Licensing Courts until 1907 when the Licences Reduction Board VA 2906 1907 – 1968 was empowered under legislation to reduce liquor licences in Victoria.

VPRS 8159 Index to Defunct Hotel Licences 1907 – c.1977

This is a card index created by the Licences Reduction Board arranged alphabetically by hotel name. The purpose of this index was to document licences (both metropolitan and rural) which had ceased.  Hotel licences could become defunct in a number of ways; through the deprivation/surrender process established in 1907, through being abandoned, or lapsing through non-renewal, and after 1968 through being cancelled by the Liquor Control Commission.  Information recorded on the cards includes the hotel name, location and licensing district, ownership and licensee details.  Names of licensees prior to 1907 appear on smaller cards (possibly added in 1970) and are attached to the back of the originals. 

Note: This series has been digitised and can be accessed online via the P0002 consignment.






VPRS 8159/P1 Unit 1


VPRS 8161 Annual Summary of Licence Fees Paid 1907 – 1926

This series details the licence fees paid by hotel licensees. Entries are arranged alphabetically by name of licensing district, and then within each district alphabetically by hotel name.

VPRS 8160 Register of Licence Fees Paid 1927 – 1974

This series records the annual fees paid by holders of liquor licences. It includes Hotel, Australian Wine, Spirit Merchants’ Club, Brewers’, Railway Refreshment Room and Canteen licences for metropolitan and country areas.

The format and content of the register varies between volumes, however most of the entries are arranged within licensing areas and then alphabetically by hotel name.  

Other Indexes available at the State Library of Victoria

(Pubs and Publicans Index, 1840-1854, on microfiche, compiled by Marion Button).

The index is in two parts, for surnames of publicans and for hotel names. Index entries have been taken from the Port Phillip Herald for 1840-1846, and from the Argus for 1847 onwards.

(R.K.Cole Hotel Records).  This surname Index records information about hotels throughout Melbourne, suburbs and country Victoria, and is gathered from various sources such as directories and newspaper notices. Each volume contains the name of the hotel and the licensee or owner together with the years of licences held by each licensee or owner.

(R. K. Cole collection of hotel records: surname index of records / compiled by Eric Tetlow).

Relates to city and suburban hotels c.1841 to 1949.  It contains entries for hotel licensees and others taken from the original Melbourne city and suburban volumes of the Robert K Cole collection of hotel records. This index is available online.

See the State Library of Victoria website for details.

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