New drink-drive limits 'put end to pub culture'

KELSEY WILKIE
Last updated 12:00 12/08/2014

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The new drink-driving law which comes into effect near the end of the year is "another nail in the coffin" for the struggling hospitality industry, pub owners in Palmerston North say.

The law will lower the legal blood-alcohol limit from 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood to 50mg.

The change, which comes into effect on December 1, is another headache for the struggling industry, The Celtic Inn owner Neil McIntosh says. "The people who would come in after work and have a pint and still be able to drive home won't be able to do that any more."

He said the lowering of the drink-driving limit would be likely to keep more people away.

Pub owners are stuck in a "no win" situation, Glenn Warren says. Warren, who owns bars in Palmerston North, including The Grand and Terrace Tavern, said it was a tough time for publicans, who already had to compete against supermarkets.

He said the new law would probably hurt the punters who were there for a bit of social interaction and a responsible drink.

"My customers generally just have three or four pints and then go home. They're here to socialise," he said.

"It is a big talking point at the moment. Some believe they will only be able to have one pint.

"There's not a hell of a lot I can do - just make sure people get home safely."

Celtic manager Scott McIntosh said he didn't want to encourage irresponsible drinking but he did want to encourage the social side of it, which he thought was dying.

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway said that the move would save lives.

He said it would likely have a flow-on effect, reducing the number of extremely drunk drivers.

The Regent Arcade bar owners have been toying with the idea of running a courtesy taxi to pull in the punters, allowing people to go out and have a few after work but not risk driving if they're over the limit.

But they still had to crunch the numbers, Scott McIntosh said.

Warren had a courtesy van running for a few months but said the cost was too high to keep it going.

Also, some customers took advantage of the service by being driven to competitors' bars instead of going home. He said if he didn't sell up he might consider working with other bar owners to make the courtesy van more economic.

"I'm more likely to try and get out of Palmy than try and put a courtesy van on," he said. Hospitality New Zealand regional manager Chris Hince said he didn't think the change would have a massive impact on the industry. He said people going for an after-work drink should already know to arrange an alternative way to get home.

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"Most of our patrons, we hope, are responsible and we encourage them to be responsible."

Palmerston North woman Jess Till said she would probably be more cautious once the new limit was introduced.

"One drink - that will be it."

Editorial, P8

- Manawatu Standard

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