Booze ban rules out free drinks in public

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 23/11/2012

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There will be no free drinks in The Square for city councillors, Massey staff and invited guests next Friday.

A post-graduation celebration renewing a memorandum of understanding between Massey University and the council has been moved indoors to escape the liquor ban.

A recent review of the council's liquor control bylaw found that while buying and selling alcohol at graduation events in The Square could be allowed under special licence conditions, there could be no freebies.

Massey's response was to announce it would have to look for an alternative to The Square for its annual cocktail party that traditionally followed the end-of-year graduation.

Spokesman James Gardiner said the interpretation of the bylaw that meant serving free drinks to invited guests could be illegal had come as a surprise, as the university had been assured in 2003 that its events would not be affected by the ban.

In the past, the November event was held at the Convention Centre, but that venue was unavailable last year, so a marquee in The Square was used, following the pattern of May graduations.

Mr Gardiner said Massey had no desire to be in breach of the bylaw.

Next week, after graduation ceremonies at The Regent on Broadway, the 461 graduates will move in procession to the marquee, where they will be served free tea, coffee and non-alcoholic refreshments, and can buy alcohol as permitted under the caterer's licence.

After that, Massey and council-invited guests will head to the Missoula Room in the civic administration building to celebrate a renewed commitment to their relationship and plans to work together, over a free drink.

Council liquor licensing staff said as the room was not a public place, and as no alcohol was to be sold, the serving of free drinks there was legal, and no licence was necessary.

Mr Gardiner said it was ironic the council rules had driven the event into a private place.

"It would have been something quite good if we had been able to have it in The Square," he said.

The council has advertised its intention to amend its bylaw to list two Massey graduation events, one in November and one in May, as having exemptions from the bylaw to allow the custom of giveaway drinks to be reinstated.

The process is subject to public consultation.

A majority of councillors support the change because they see the graduation events as important for the vibrancy of The Square, and for celebrating the university's role in the city.

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- Manawatu Standard

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