Booze bylaw breach? Law change would allow exemptions
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Massey University graduation celebrations in Palmerston North's Square that supply free alcohol could be breaching the liquor control bylaw.
When events have a cash bar for selling alcohol, a special licence can be granted that makes the marquee a licensed premise and therefore exempt from the controls of the liquor ban area. But there is no ability to apply for a licence when alcohol is served to guests free of charge.
The anomaly has prompted the city council to propose changes to the bylaw to grant exemptions for two events that currently slip between the rules. The city council's community wellbeing committee will consider tomorrow whether the change should be included in an "omnibus" package of amendments to several bylaws.
Council policy analyst Peter Ridge said the proposed liquor control changes had been discussed with Massey, police, and the Safety Advisory Board. He said allowing the exceptions could be seen as enhancing the relationship between the city and university and encouraging the graduation events to continue to be held in The Square.
The particular events affected are the chancellor's dinner in May, and a cocktail function in November.
The conditions would be that the organisers were present throughout the event and took responsibility for minimising the potential for alcohol-related harm, that access to the events was restricted to invited guests only, and no alcohol was allowed to leave the marquee.
The council would be able to impose "any other reasonable condition". Both events were described as well-established, and presenting a "very low risk of alcohol-related harm".
Changing the bylaw will require public consultation on the inclusion of a new clause about exceptions, with the particular events included in a schedule of exemptions.
Any other event that organisers wanted an exemption for would have to go through the same process.
The alternatives to changing the bylaw would be to allow council staff to grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis, or certain events could be exempted by council resolution.
Mr Ridge said delegating to council staff potentially gave too much scope for exceptions and could undermine the purpose of the liquor ban area. Seeking a council resolution would allow greater public scrutiny of decisions, but would subject councillors to lobbying pressure from event organisers.
Not changing the bylaw ran the risk of driving graduation events out of The Square, reducing the vibrancy of the area. If the council decides to go ahead with the proposed changes, they will have to go out for public consultation, with submissions closing before Christmas, to be considered next year, and final decisions would be made in April.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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