Rock promoter blames Easter laws for loss

Last updated 09:07 26/03/2008

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Hard-rocking promoter Phil Sprey is facing a potential $750,000 loss after a shortage of fans at his Wellington metal festival, Rock2Wgtn.

Now he's firing a broadside at Easter trading laws and the police, blaming them for dampening a tourism opportunity.

Rock2Wgtn - a lineup of rock acts of yesteryear - drew about 50,000 fans to Westpac Stadium over Saturday and Sunday. Mr Sprey was hoping for 4000 to 5000 more each night.

Though the dollar figures were not concrete yesterday, he said the outlook was not good.

"We could have lost maybe three-quarters of a million dollars ... which is basically the sort of margin we were hoping to make."

The Easter weekend concert cost $5.5 million in total.

Though the audience had seen "a hell of a show" and the stars' response to New Zealand was overwhelmingly positive, factors such as bars closing early had hurt.

"As Gene Simmons [of Kiss] quite rightly said, 'It was like the day after an atomic bomb went off' ... because this town was closed half the time.

"That's the stupidity of Easter trading, when Queenstown and Rotorua can stay open and the rest of the country's closed."

Though he was grateful for the job done by police at the concert, he thought they were over-zealous in enforcing liquor laws.

He estimated the restricted trading had cost Wellington about $6.5 million, while Rock2Wgtn may have brought the city about $22.5 million.

Police liquor licensing officer Sergeant Caroline Marner said: "I think it's poor promotion if you plan it over an Easter weekend, knowing licensing laws are in place and require an act of Parliament to change them."

The stadium was licensed and special licences were issued to let some bars stay open early on Easter Sunday, she said.

Positively Wellington tourism chief executive Tim Cossar said it was too soon to assess Rock2Wgtn's economic impact but supported minimising Easter trade restraints.

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- The Dominion Post

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