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Easter and liquor laws to hit bars, eateries

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 06:44 17/04/2014

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Wellington

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Wellington's hospitality industry is preparing to take a hit this Easter as trading and liquor laws clash.

Usually, bars that cannot serve alcohol on Good Friday would open at midnight until 6am but, under new rules, they now have to shut two hours earlier. As a result, about half of the bars in Courtenay Place would not be opening because there was too little time to make it worthwhile, the Hospitality Association said. "It is a complete double whammy," Wellington branch president Jeremy Smith said.

About half the bars in the city's entertainment district would not bother opening. "A lot of people are saying it's not worth it, too many people are going to be away." It was going to be particularly tough with the Hurricanes v Blues match being held at Westpac Stadium, which has been granted a special licence to serve alcohol.

People would be leaving the rugby and wanting to have a drink but would not be able to unless they bought a meal as well. That was ridiculous, Smith said. "If you want everybody to stay home, then don't have any rugby."

Nick Mills' family owns several inner-city bars and restaurants, including popular night spots Betty's, Edisons and Boston.

They would be opening tomorrow night but not on Saturday and were preparing to take a big financial hit, he said. Those bars did not get busy until after 11pm, so there would be only about four trading hours for the entire weekend. "What you make at sevens, you lose at Easter."

The laws were "back in the dark ages" and had to be updated, he said.

"The thing that concerns me is the tourists . . . they just can't go out or do anything for the whole weekend."

Despite preparing to take a loss for the weekend, he was not planning to impose surcharges at his open restaurants, including Spruce Goose and Hummingbird, saying he preferred to absorb the cost throughout the year.

"You just do it as a public service."

Restaurant Association president Mike Egan said he did not have surcharges at his restaurants.

However, there were arguments for the industry practice because the cost of opening on public holidays and paying staff extra was "prohibitive", he said.

About half of the eateries in Wellington would charge, and some would not bother to open. "I don't think any restaurant, whether they charge a surcharge or not, will make money on a public holiday."

An inner-city bar and restaurant owner who did not want to be named said he would be applying a 15 per cent surcharge this weekend but would not make a profit.

Most customers were increasingly accepting of surcharges and the reasons for them.

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"That little bit of recovery makes me break even, instead of running at a loss."

He made a point of ensuring every customer was aware of the policy before they ordered. "I don't want anyone to get a surprise when they get their bill."

THE RULES

Good Friday and Easter Sunday

Good Friday is a public holiday but Easter Sunday is not.

On both days restaurants and bars can serve alcohol only to people who are there to dine. One hour of drinking time is allowed on each side of the meal.

Some bars and restaurants can serve alcohol if they have been granted a special licence linked to a specific event. Tomorrow Westpac Stadium has a licence for the Hurricanes game.

Some businesses, including dairies and service stations, can open provided they sell only food, drink, household items, personal items, petrol, oil, car parts and accessories.

These goods must be items that people cannot delay buying until the next day, such as baby formula or pet food.

Easter Monday

Public holiday, no trading restrictions.

Some services impose surcharges on public holidays - usually 15 per cent - to make up for extra cost of opening. This is at the discretion of individual businesses.

- The Dominion Post

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