Booze ban hovers over sevens

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 29/07/2014
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The antics of hundreds of drunken revellers at this year's Wellington rugby sevens have resulted in tighter booze controls for next year's tournament.

Authorities are setting steeper hurdles for Westpac Stadium's caterer Spotless, which has accepted responsibility for more than 100 breaches of liquor laws during this year's sevens. Police made 20 arrests and removed 270 people from the stadium at February's tournament.

Spotless's licence to serve alcohol at stadium events will no longer apply to the sevens. From next year, it will have to apply for a special licence, which gives police greater powers to intervene, including the right to cancel the licence part-way through the two-day tournament.

Spotless accepted the variation enforced by the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority, which also granted the police's application to temporarily suspend a general manager's licence.

Because Spotless agreed to the variation, police subsequently withdrew an application for its on-licence to be suspended or cancelled. The July 18 decision noted Spotless did not dispute police allegations of 156 breaches concerning patrons pre-loading but still gaining entry, people being drunk at the stadium, and more alcohol being supplied to already drunk and under-age spectators.

The decision noted a "much more robust effort will be necessary in future sevens events to prevent ‘pre-loaded' patrons from entering the stadium at all times".

Stadium boss Shane Harmon, also speaking on behalf of Spotless, said changes would be made in how next year's event was monitored.

"We've accepted the decision of the authority that there needs to be changes next year," he said. "This year we did increase our security in the stadium and turned away twice as many people at the gates as we did in the previous year."

Pre-loaders remained "the most significant issue" of the event, Harmon said. "Any changes that we make are going to be specifically targeting those patrons who are intoxicated."

Earlier this year, Spotless had to battle for a special licence to sell alcohol at a Good Friday Super Rugby match, after police initially opposed the application based on the antics of drunken sevens patrons.

Senior Sergeant Mark Buttar said it was too early to indicate whether police would oppose a special licence application for the 2015 sevens. The onus was on event organisers to ensure people drank responsibly, he said.

"The excessive consumption of alcohol has to be reduced and minimised and the harm associated with it, that's what hosts need to think about."

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Sevens fan Gary Brown, who has previously been credited with originating the tournament's costume tradition by appearing as fictional 1960s spy Austin Powers every year, said the sevens demographic had changed over time.

Poorly behaved spectators at this year's event were a "minority", but he noted that in recent years there seemed to be more fans drinking on the concourse than watching the rugby.

"I think it would be great to instil the rugby culture back in the sevens - bring back the ‘old school' . . . I think there are ways of combating this problem."

Sevens general manager Marty Donoghue said organisers worked hard to keep the crowds in order.

"We're going for 2015 and we're really hoping to provide a good experience. We'll do everything to ensure the sevens tournament is returned."

 

WHAT IS A SPECIAL LICENCE? 

Organisers of events such as a rugby match or a racing day can apply for a special licence to serve alcohol to patrons.

The caterer must apply to a local licensing authority, and can be subject to opposition or terms agreed to by the police.

A December 2013 amendment to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 also gives police the ability to apply to the licensing authority for cancellation of the special licence even after it has already been granted, if they have grounds to suggest the licensee is no longer suitable.

Under the changes to the act, liquor licences can be cancelled for five years if the licensee has committed any specified offences three times within three years.

- The Dominion Post

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