Labor leader Mark McGowan will today propose changes to WA's liquor licensing rules that would virtually eliminate drinking restrictions in restaurants.

But though this would end the waiter's mantra: "Sorry, sir, you can't have a drink without a meal", the hotel industry says it has the danger of turning every restaurant into a late-night pub.

Much of Mr McGowan's liquor reform stage-two policy - including a new licence category for "micro-bars" - was launched in March last year.

His additions to be announced today counter the Barnett Government's election promise to let restaurants with fewer than 120 seats serve liquor without a meal.

"We're saying all restaurants, regardless of size, will be able to sell liquor without a meal," Mr McGowan said.

Labor would also scrap the rule that a restaurant patron must be seated at a table if drinking without eating.

Critics called the Labor policy disturbing, a recipe for disaster and a massive shift that would change the face of liquor licensing.

"This isn't an alcohol policy," Curtin University health policy academic Mike Daube said. "It does nothing to reduce our alcohol problems and is likely to increase them.

"If you increase access, you increase the problems," he said.

"Making licences and access to alcohol easier is a recipe for disaster."

Premier Colin Barnett said the Labor policy "runs the risk of turning local restaurants into high-risk venues".

"This proposal takes the availability of alcohol too far," Mr Barnett said.

In response, Mr McGowan said Labor would give WA more options in a "sophisticated Mediterranean-style drinking environment, which is the opposite of binge drinking and antisocial behaviour".

But the plan has the liquor industry up in arms.

Australian Hotels Association WA chief Bradley Woods says Labor's policy will result in immediate mass applications for restaurant licences from hotel and tavern operators.

"Restaurants can trade 24/7," Mr Woods said. "The public interest test is less onerous.

"In short, restaurant licences are easier to get than hotel or tavern licences. If you then say that anyone with a restaurant licence will automatically be able to sell liquor without a meal and without the 'seated' rule, restaurants will become 24-hour pubs."

Mr McGowan hit back. "It won't be open slather," he said. "As part of these reforms, restaurants will be required to close at midnight just like pubs and taverns do now."

The West Australian

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