Sell more alcohol or face closure, Queenstown liquor stores told

Betty's Liquorstore in Beach St, Queenstown.
Rhys Chamberlain

Betty's Liquorstore in Beach St, Queenstown.

A chain of bottle stores in Queenstown and Wanaka has been told to sell more booze or face not having their licence renewed.

In a slightly ironic District Licensing Committee hearing on Thursday, police, the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Public Health South opposed the renewal of an off-licence for five Betty's Liquor stores as 85 per cent of sales profit needed to be from alcohol and that threshold was not presently being met.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 states "at least 85 per cent of the annual sales revenue is expected to be earned from the sale of alcohol" by retail liquor outlets. The figure was implemented to ensure it differentiated liquor stores from others that sold alcohol, like supermarkets and dairies.

Beaver Liquor Ltd board chairman Russell Gray, of Auckland, presented a new business plan to the panel showing how Betty's would raise alcohol sales by 10 per cent in the next four months, primarily by reducing the sale of cigarettes.

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Gray presented figures showing "year-on-year" alcohol sales growth and a steady decline in cigarette sales.

Taking cigarettes out of the stores altogether was not an option as it would mean a reduction in profits, Gray said. Instead the business proposed reducing the types of cigarettes available.

The company also planned to build online and trade sales, he said.

Gray said 85 per cent was a "fair figure other than it gets skewed because of the high cost of cigarettes now" and in high foot-traffic areas like Queenstown, people popped in to buy other things like cigarettes.

"It's an unintended consequence of the act. We're adamant that the act needs to be amended."

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Lakes District Council alcohol licensing team leader Sian Swinney questioned whether ever-increasing cigarette taxes would hamper alcohol sales percentages while Public Health South medical officer of health Dr Derek Bell questioned whether trade sales should even count towards the 85 per cent target.

Committee chairman Bill Unwin said the company was "technically in breach" of the act and requested an audit of the figures in the business plan.

The hearing was adjourned for six months so the audit could be completed.

"We expect you to start immediately on a plan in order to get yourselves compliant," he said.

A previous hearing was held on August 29 and was adjourned to allow the business plan to be developed.

 - Stuff

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