Council won't target strong beer

BLAKE CRAYTON-BROWN
Last updated 14:54 01/08/2014

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The Wellingtonian

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Wellingtonians who like strong craft beer can breathe a sigh of relief - the city council isn't clamping down on beer festivals, stronger beers or single bottle sales any time soon.

Beer aficionados in Auckland are grappling with the news that they may not be able to buy beer with an alcohol volume of more than 6 per cent at beer festivals or an hour before closing time.

Colin Mallon, manager of Courtenay Place beer bar The Malthouse, said the proposals in Auckland were a kneejerk reaction targeting single bottle ready-to-drink sales.

To Mallon, imposing restrictions on when licencees could serve different strengths of alcohol was completely unnecessary. "Our overriding requirement is to be responsible hosts," he said.

"You're either safe to be drinking alcohol or not. I'm not going to serve you a five per cent if you're not in a good enough state for eight per cent."

He said attempts to exclude craft beer from the restrictions would be fraught, because no one could agree on what constituted craft beer. "I've yet to come up with or have heard an absolute definition I'm comfortable with," he said. "Too much of the focus is on craft beer. It should be on good beer, no matter how much they produce."

Mallon said Wellington breweries, bars and beer drinkers were very fortunate to have such a beer friendly council. "Our mayor is a beer drinker too."

Wellington City Council confirmed that Wellington's provisional local alcohol policy does not have any specific conditions for special licenses, like those proposed for Auckland.

Council service development and improvement manager Jaime Dyhrberg said high-strength beers were not common in the types of premises or events likely to generate alcohol-related harm.

He said beer strength and single bottle issues did not rate highly as community concerns.

Community, sport and recreation committee chairman Paul Eagle said the council did not need to impose many conditions on beer festivals, such as Beervana, because organisers already had responsible host policies and set serving sizes.

"Auckland's issues are not our problems. We are a can-do city," he said. "We are a sophisticated, intelligent city and people are wanting to have a bit of a taste, to give it a go and support some local micro-breweries."

Eagle, whose committee is responsible for liquor licensing issues, said the biggest alcohol issue facing Wellington was around harmful drinking behaviours, not beer strength.

Behaviours of particular concern were side-loading, meaning drinking alcohol purchased elsewhere while at a nightclub, and pre-loading, drinking heavily at home before heading to clubs or bars, he said.

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- The Wellingtonian

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