Controversial plans to stop liquor stores and supermarkets selling alcohol after 9pm in Wellington could soon be ditched.
In a discussion document released today, Wellington City Council officers have backed down on the proposal they floated in June.
They now recommend off-licence premises in the capital should be allowed to keep selling alcohol until 11pm.
But the officers have also suggested a ''voluntary accord'' with off-licence premises that would see the 9pm restriction trialled in the central city and southern suburbs on Friday and Saturday nights for six months.
Councillor Stephanie Cook, who looks after the social portfolio, said it was an ''interesting proposal'' that would allow the council to get a better grasp on the problem of pre-loading and side-loading.
Pre-loading is getting drunk on alcohol bought from off-licences before heading into more expensive bars and nightclubs. Side-loading is smuggling alcohol into bars and clubs, or hiding it outside to drink between visits to bars.
"If the evidence stacks up then district licensing committees will be in a better position to act in the best interests of our communities,'' Ms Cook said.
Council officers have also poured cold water on the idea of establishing an entertainment precinct in Courtenay Place and Cuba St.
It would have allowed bars, clubs, and restaurants in the area to trade between 7am and 3am, or 5am if they displayed ''best practise.''
Other inner-city bars would have been forced to close at 2am, or 3am for best-practice bars.
Ms cook said the idea was not well supported. Submissions from bars, venues and also the Police made it clear that one precinct could concentrate trouble.
"We don't want to stifle some of the niche character venues that might fall outside an arbitrary boundary, such as some of Wellington's burgeoning craft beer bars.''
The recommendations come after the council sought public feedback on its proposed local alcohol policy in June.
It received almost 1900 submissions. All but 176 of them came via Hospitality New Zealand submission forms.
Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown said it was important to balance minimising the harm caused by alcohol with the need to maintain a ''vibrant and enjoyable'' city.
Evidence presented to councillors through the submission process and a three-day hearing last month was that bars and venues, for the most part, sold alcohol responsibly, she said.
''Our greatest concern is with people ... loading up too much at home before coming in to town, or excessive drinking in public environments ... with alcohol bought from off-licenses.''
"There was a strong message from our communities that people who load up on 10 vodka shots before hitting town, or who drain six beers in the back of a van parked on a side-street, are spoiling the downtown experience and putting themselves at risk.''
The proposed changes will be debated by Wellington City councillors at a Strategy and Policy Committee meeting next week.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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