Wellington bar owners 'terrified' of police and a one-way door policy for party zone
Bar owners in Wellington's party zone are now so "terrified" of police behaviour that they are loath to call an ambulance for drunk patrons for fear of attracting unwanted attention, a nightlife kingpin says.
Nick Mills, whose family has owned a string of Wellington bars for decades, told a District Licensing Committee hearing on Thursday: "We're now terrified of police. They're now the opposition, not the ally."
Mills, who was seeking the renewal of an alcohol licence for his Siglo bar in Courtenay Place, accused police of unfairly targeting bars in an effort to force a change to the city's licensing laws.
Police want to impose a one-way door policy on bars in the area after 3am, preventing any new customers from entering. They applied for such a "lockout" at Siglo on Thursday.
However, Wellington City Council's local alcohol policy ruled out such a change in 2013.
Mills told the hearing that police were now trying to get around the council's policy by lodging objections to every bar's 4am licence renewal.
Tensions between bars and police had now become so bad that he had heard of a rival bar owner putting a worse-for-wear patron, who may have needed medical attention, out on the street rather than calling an ambulance and attracting the gaze of police officers.
Under cross-examination, he reiterated the claim he and other bar owners have made that police were forcibly trying to change the law to get a Sydney-style lockout policy in place in Wellington's party zone.
Mills' family employs 160 people in its group of businesses that includes Bettys, Public, Hummingbird, Boston, Edison's Superette, The Tasting Room and Spruce Goose.
Courtenay Place was a much safer place than it used to be, and a one-way door policy would have "serious fallout" for business, as had happened in Sydney, he said.
Two bars in Courtenay Place and Cuba St have already voluntarily accepted a one-way-door policy, but Mills said he was concerned that Siglo – formerly Kitty O'Sheas – would suffer financially if it was the first bar to be forced to comply.
Hospitality New Zealand Wellington regional manager Dylan Firth said in his submission to the hearing that the association was generally opposed to lockout restrictions in any major city.
Lockouts were unreasonable and did not minimise or eliminate the harm cause by excessive drinking, he said.
The hearing continues.