Cloverlea grog shop wins fight

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 27/02/2014

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Big Barrel's plans to set up a liquor store near Palmerston North's Cloverlea roundabout have been given the all clear.

High Court Judge Justice Stephen Kos has dismissed a ratepayer-funded appeal from city councillor Tangi Utikere against the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority's granting of the off licence.

The bill to city ratepayers is more than $60,000 so far and could go higher.

The judgment this week recognised "large swathes of Highbury fall into the most deprived decile of New Zealand households" and that objectors were concerned more outlets in the area could have negative effects.

But Judge Kos found the authority had been right, under the prevailing Sale of Liquor Act, in dismissing the objections.

"The objectors could not, and did not, advance cogent evidence of an increased measure of liquor abuse as a result of the granting of a licence," he said.

There were no objections from the district licensing inspector or police.

Cr Billy Meehan, who first responded to community worries about the liquor licence application, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the ruling.

"If you look at the law, the judge could not really do anything about it. But I was always hopeful we could have got there, and that would have been better for the community."

Licensee Baldeep Dhillon took over the former Cloverlea Tavern bottle store and transformed it into a Big Barrel after Cr Utikere's appeal was lodged. He has said this was an interim measure, and that there would be just one Big Barrel on the service station site if the appeal failed. He referred the Manawatu Standard to his lawyer Alastair Sherriff for comment yesterday.

Mr Sherriff said he did not know what his client's intentions were about the two premises.

He said they were pleased to have it affirmed again that they were responsible licensees.

"This is not a business that simply goes in and sells alcohol, but one that contributes to the community."

Cr Meehan said containing the number of outlets at the roundabout to two instead of three was a small win.

However, the former service station site was much more prominent and alcohol advertising would be "right in your face".

Cr Utikere said he was satisfied Justice Kos had given the appeal thorough consideration.

"At the end of the day, what I wanted to ensure was that the community's concerns were expressed."

He said the new Sale and Supply of Liquor Act would allow much more weight to be given to those sorts of concerns.

Mr Sherriff agreed the community would have more say under the new law about impacts on the amenity and good order of a locality, and the effects of a proliferation of outlets.

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The council's initial estimate for the costs of the legal action was $40,000, but city council chief executive Paddy Clifford confirmed $62,000 had been spent so far. The council faces the possibility Mr Dhillon could claim for his costs.

- Manawatu Standard

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