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July 22, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Shake-Up for City Sliquors

We all know about preloading, but pre-preloading could become the norm with a tough new alcohol scheme proposed by the City Council.

Bottle shops will be forced to close at 9 pm and central-city bars will shut their doors as early as 2 am if a draft Local Alcohol Management Policy proposed by the Wellington City Council is successful.

The Policy follows the Government’s alcohol reforms under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, which gave local authorities greater power over the sale of alcohol. The Act also introduced national maximum trading hours of 8 am to 4 am for on-licences, and 7 am to 11 pm for off-licences.

The policy drafted by the Council would see inner-city bars in the new ‘Entertainment Precinct’—between Cuba Street and Courtenay Place—have their maximum trading hours set to between 7 am and 3 am, with exceptions for “best-practice premises”. Bars outside of the Entertainment Precinct would have their trading hours restricted to between 7 am and 2 am, with best-practice premises able to remain open until 3 am. Suburban bars would have to close at midnight.

Current restrictions mean that bars are variously licensed to operate until 3 am or 6 am. This will change on December 18 this year, when the default maximum national trading hours of 8 am to 4 am will be implemented.

Off-licences would also be restricted under the draft Local Alcohol Policy, with supermarkets and bottle shops unable to sell alcohol after 9 pm. This would apply to all off-licences, whether in the Entertainment Precinct or in the suburbs. National trading hours will restrict all off-licences to selling alcohol only between 7 am and 11 pm when they come into force later this year.

Students spoken to by Salient said the new restrictions would be an inconvenience, but would not alter their drinking habits. One second-year Arts student said it wouldn’t affect her behaviour or be effective in changing problem drinking overall.

“I think if people are aiming to drink then they will.

“If we want to address the issue [of binge drinking] a lot more needs to be done than closing times.”

A poll on the Salient Facebook page found that 44 of 56 respondents thought the current proposal was the wrong way to tackle our drinking culture, with 11 of the 44 believing no changes should be made. Just one respondent agreed with the changes, with the remaining 11 respondents apparently drunk at the time of polling.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown stressed the importance of the creation of the Local Alcohol Policy (LAP), which is optional under the 2012 reforms.

“Wellington is a vibrant city with a pumping nightlife that needs to be looked after, while also reducing the clear amount of harm being inflicted on the community by alcohol.”

The draft policy cites concerns around “excessive pre-loading and side-loading (drinking your own alcohol before and between visiting bars)” as a major factor in the restricted trading hours for off-licences. A survey by the council found that 74 per cent of those buying alcohol at 9 pm intended to drink it immediately, compared to just 33 per cent at 5 pm. 72 per cent of Wellingtonians surveyed by Research New Zealand in May 2013 admitted to pre-loading, and 11 per cent to side-loading.

The proposal has been criticised by supermarket and bottle-shop owners, who say it will inconvenience responsible drinkers. Dean Gault, co-owner of Pak’nSave Kilbirnie, said “the majority of purchases after 9 pm are for home consumption, where adults are drinking responsibly.”

“I think we need to concentrate on the real problem, which is New Zealand’s drinking culture and the small minority who behave antisocially, and stop penalising the rest of society who drink responsibly.”

As for on-licences, council proposals would allow certain bars in the Entertainment Precinct to remain open after the 4 am national trading hours. Hospitality New Zealand has argued that the 2-am closing-time proposed for most central-city bars will do nothing to curb alcohol-related crime, which spikes between midnight and 1 am. Yet, research done by the Ministry of Justice has shown that a bar closing after 3 am is 8.9 times more likely to have a criminal offence committed within it than a bar closing at midnight.

The draft policy is open for submissions until August 2. VUWSA will submit on behalf of students, and individuals are invited to submit their views too. There is a public information session at Te Papa on July 25 at 7 pm.

Once public consultation has closed, the council will consider whether to approve the LAP; if the LAP is approved, it will be implemented from mid-2014.

——

Once the LAP is implemented in mid-2014:

On-licences within the Entertainment Precinct: will operate until 4 am after 18 December 2013. May apply to operate until 5 am when renewing liquor licence once LAP comes into effect.

On-licences outside the Entertainment Precinct, but in the city: will operate until 4 am after 18 December 2013. When liquor licence is renewed, will be assessed for operation until 3 am, otherwise close at 2 am.

On-licences in the suburbs: close at midnight.

All off-licences: will operate until 11 pm after 18 December 2013. When liquor licence is renewed, will be restricted to operating between 7 am-9 pm.

Liquor licences are renewed the first year after being issued, and, following that, every three years.

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