Is the new formal definition of intoxication too strict for bar staff to adhere to?
Tough new liquor laws which come into effect today are simply common sense, a Blenheim bar worker says.
The laws will see pubs across the country shut their doors at 4am. Adults can be fined for giving alcohol to minors who are not their own children and bars stand to lose their licences if an intoxicated person even steps on to their premises.
Fairweathers bar duty manager Tineka Smith said bar staff would not be making any major changes.
"It's all really common sense stuff we do anyway," she said.
Information packs and tools to help bar staff adjust to the new laws have been distributed, including an "intoxication assessment tool" which outlines the tell-tale signs of a drunk person.
A formal definition of intoxification is now someone who displays two or more of :
Serving an intoxicated person, or having one on a licensed premise can result in a $10,000 fine.
The small cards were a handy tool to prompt staff but those who had worked in the hospitality industry for a long time wouldn't need to consult it, Ms Smith said.
Talking to customers before they served them was key, she said. "Some people are desperate to get a quick drink but you don't know what they're like until you get talking."
With the silly season here, staff were keen to work with police to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.
Otago University's department of preventive and social medicine head Jennie Connor said the new rules would do little to curb harmful drinking.
"What works is the regulation of sale and supply of alcohol, and that's why it won't have much impact - because it doesn't do much about that, " she said.
"From the evidence that we have about what happens when you close premises earlier, putting a restriction on hours and sales of alcohol will reduce harm."
But a 4am closure was still too late, Professor Connor said.
Supermarket sales had barely been addressed, yet accounted for the majority of alcohol purchased in New Zealand, she said.
Hospitality Association New Zealand spokesman Jeremy Smith said the Government had "completely overlooked" personal accountability with the new legislation. "All the regulations are on the licence holder. You can be intoxicated in the street, the second you step into a licensed premises the owner and the bar managers are the ones who are breaking the law and get punished."
A three strikes rule is also in play - if a bar breaches the rules three times within three years its licence can be cancelled and it won't be able to apply for a new one for five years.
Police welcomed the new legislation.
Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls said alcohol was a factor in around a third of all crime. "We are serious about preventing harm caused by excessive drinking."
Officers will be able to slap drinkers with "boozing tickets" carrying fines of between $250 to $2000 for behaviour that falls foul of the new liquor laws. They can also issue spot $250 fines to people caught drinking in liquor ban areas.
Mr Nicholls said he expected police to exercise "fairness and good judgment" when enforcing the new rules.
- The Marlborough Express
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