Return to Chch's 'Wild West' not wanted

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2013

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Hospitality and tourism sector leaders have weighed into the debate about earlier closing of Christchurch bars, taking different stances on how the city centre should best cater to residents and visitors.

Those speaking on behalf of hospitality businesses that depend on alcohol sales have taken a much more hardline approach against the council's draft local alcohol policy saying it is too restrictive.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism (CCT) chief executive Tim Hunter, however, said he did not want to see a return to the "Wild West" days in the city before the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes when bad behaviour by drunks on the streets was not a good look, and had an impact on visitors.

For most people, having those extra hours in the early morning at venues was not necessary.

CCT would be making a submission on the draft policy after it had held workshops on the issue.

"I don't think we'd want to go back to the Wild West we had before this, in terms of unlimited opening hours. I would regard pre-earthquake after midnight in the weekends as pretty hostile. That's not a good look [in the city] . . ." Hunter said.

"I think the answer is somewhere between the position the council has laid out and the position the hospitality industry is advocating for."

The policy indicates the city's extended nightlife would be curtailed, with most bars forced to close at 1am, but those within a special zone would be open till 3am although doors would close at 1am.

The Christchurch City Council is undertaking a month-long consultation on the policy.

Shaun Halliwell, an owner of restaurant-bars and a member of the Canterbury executive for Hospitality New Zealand, said later hours would be a must for the city, particularly when more tourists and convention business returned.

His Fiddlesticks Restaurant and Bar in the central city was only a street away from the 3am closing precinct and not in a residential part of the inner city.

The 1am closing time would hurt. His No.4 Restaurant & Bar in Merivale would not be affected as much.

Peter Morrison, Hospitality NZ Canterbury branch president, said the 1am restrictions would hurt, for example, the convention industry, with people at conventions often finishing late at night and having nowhere to go.

He had been on a committee with police and council representatives to discuss the new policy and felt "a gentlemen's agreement" on agreed hours had been reached before that agreement was broken when the draft plan was announced.

"We're not pushing for how it was prior to the earthquake. But we want to be able to say a 2am one-way door and 4am closing."

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Hospitality NZ central South Island regional manager Amy McLellan-Minty said a 1am, one-way door was too early. It's not conducive to having an international city." That timing would also negatively affect the revenues of bars.

Christchurch City councillor Jamie Gough said he thought the people involved in the draft policy would be open minded in discussions about the draft hours.

He thought the central Government's assistance on the role of alcohol in society was also vital.

"The whole reason we're addressing the local alcohol policy is, there are problems . . . my personal view is that one of the major things that we need to be considering is having central Government work with us to make it an offence to be drunk in a public place."

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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