Police will 'destroy' Wellington nightlife with lockouts, hospo lawyer says
If police succeed in getting Courtenay Place bar Siglo to adopt a 3am lockout it could be "the thin end of the wedge" for bars along the party strip that could "destroy" Wellington's nightlife, a lawyer says.
Siglo lawyer Alastair Sherriff made the claims in submissions before a hearing of the Wellington District Licensing Committee.
Sherriff, who represents a clutch of other Courtenay Place bars, said it was his job to stop police from "destroying" Wellington's vibrant culture, economy and nightlife with Sydney-style lockouts.
Siglo, formerly Kitty O'Shea's, is seeking a renewal of its 4am licence but police want the bar to operate on a 3am one-way door policy where patrons would not be allowed to enter or return to the bar after 3am. Those already inside could stay until 4am.
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The decision is pending and awaited nervously by other bars in the nightlife hub whose licences are up for renewal.
A 3am one-way door policy for Siglo could be the "thin end of an unstoppable and unfathomable wedge", Sherriff said.
In July Siglo owner Nick Mills said publicans in Wellington's party zone were so "terrified" of police behaviour they were loath to call an ambulance for drunk patrons for fear of attracting unwanted attention.
Bar owners also accused police of trying to "force" a one-way door policy on the capital's party precinct by objecting to every 4am licence renewal.
Sherriff argued police had been the "principal protagonists" in the uproar over proposed lockouts and were not using the full arsenal of arrest and detention options available to them to combat drunkenness and street violence.
"Rather than use the tools Parliament has given them they come to you and ask you to impose a condition on a compliant business," Sherriff told the committee.
But Regional Public Health medical officer of health Stephen Palmer said Courtenay Place was the "archetypal locality" in terms of alcohol-related bad behaviour and public order.
"Few other localities in New Zealand would come close - we all know that," Palmer told the committee.
As data improved it would become easier to tell where trouble originated but until then bar owners would claim they were operating at the highest standards and the problem was not theirs, he said.
During the drafting of Wellington's, now mothballed, Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) in 2013, council officers considered a one-way door policy and ruled it out.
Hospitality NZ and Courtenay Place bar owners were very good at lobbying councillors "including visiting councillors at home in their living rooms", Palmer said.