Committee allows liquor sales for Easter rugby

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 14/04/2014

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Still haunted by the memory of drunken Sevens fans, Westpac Stadium management has been forced to jump through hoops to ensure rugby fans can have a beer this Easter.

Spotless Catering has been granted a special liquor licence to sell alcohol at the Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Blues on Good Friday - but only after having to justify its management abilities before a Wellington District Licensing Committee on Friday.

The hearing came after police initially opposed the special licence application, motivated by concern about the 156 episodes of drunkenness breaching liquor laws at this year's Wellington Sevens. There were also 20 arrests and 270 people evicted during the February tournament.

But despite police withdrawing their opposition, the committee still insisted on a defended hearing, with commissioner Rex Woodhouse saying the sevens breaches represented "sufficient concern".

Under liquor laws, sale of alcohol is prohibited unless it is served with meals, or a special licence is issued for a specific event. The committee acknowledged a rugby match would constitute an event, but said the main concern was the alcohol control.

At Friday's hearing, Spotless and stadium managers argued that a Super Rugby game was a completely different event to the carnival atmosphere of the sevens.

Lawyer Alastair Sherriff said the committee had to compare "apples with apples" and "the sevens are a kumara".

In the five games since the sevens, only two people had caused alcohol-related trouble, he said. "There's no reason for you to think that anything untoward is going to happen."

He also argued that the perception this year's sevens was ill-behaved was skewed.

The 156 intoxicated people alleged by police represented just 0.3 per cent of the crowd, meaning 99.7 per cent of people "safely and responsibly enjoyed the event", he said.

Stadium chief executive Shane Harmon supported that point. "The consensus of stakeholders was that from their perspective it was the best ever and an improvement on previous years."

Despite police withdrawing their objection, alcohol harm prevention officer Sergeant Terry Fraser appeared, pointing out that while the events were different, the venue and management were the same - including the principal duty manager.

Spotless venue manager Michael Kirk said they had agreed that for Good Friday there would be 13 duty managers on site, each positioned at a different bar in the stadium, and each could lose their licence if there were any breaches at their station.

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Police have lodged two alternative applications with the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority in relation to the sevens, requesting that either a special licence be issued - with terms agreed by police - or caterer Spotless's licence be suspended or cancelled.

- The Dominion Post

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