School bell signal for grog shop to close

LANE NICHOLS
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2012
Chiman Patel
Fairfax NZ
MUCH TO BE DESIRED: Thirsty Liquor licensee Chiman Patel outside his Cannons Creek shop, formerly the Fantame Liquor Store.

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A Cannons Creek liquor store has had its trading hours slashed and its owners warned to shape up or risk closure.

Thirsty Liquor, opposite Russell School, has been branded poorly managed and a source of community alcohol abuse in the decision from the Liquor Licensing Authority.

It has also been ordered to shut for 30 minutes every day to protect children as they head home from the primary school.

The decision is being hailed as nationally significant by the Alcohol Advisory Council and a victory for communities opposed to the harm perceived to be wreaked by the alcohol industry.

"We have been hearing from many communities throughout the country who want to have a real say in what happens in their community," Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said yesterday. "This shows that their voice can make a difference."

Similar community uprisings stymied proposed off-licence bottle stores earlier this year in Mungavin Ave, Porirua East; and Riddiford St, Newtown.

More battles are expected once the Alcohol Reform Bill, now before Parliament, becomes law, giving more community control over alcohol outlets.

It is rare for the Liquor Licensing Authority to restrict the hours of existing operations, with only a dozen or so cases in the last five years.

In his findings, Judge John Hole granted Thirsty Liquor a "probationary" one-year liquor licence renewal, but said the conduct of licensee Chiman Patel and his son, the store's manager, "leave much to be desired".

The store – formerly Fantame Liquor – has twice failed controlled purchase operations by selling alcohol to minors, and has been sanctioned for excessive liquor advertising. Its latest licence application drew 88 opposing submissions and sparked two community protest marches through Porirua. It was also opposed by police and Regional Public Health.

The decision cites evidence of "unsavoury" patrons engaging in intimidatory behaviour outside the store, drunks urinating in public and broken bottles strewn across roads and properties.

Mr Patel refused to comment yesterday as pallets of alco-pops were delivered outside the store.

The judge said the community was a residential area where "liquor abuse and its harm are rife". "The overall evidence is that not only liquor abuse problems arise from the premises, particularly at night, but also there is inadequate management of what have become problem premises."

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The store was previously allowed to operate from 9am until midnight seven days a week, but its hours have been chopped back. It must now shut at 8pm, Monday till Friday, and for half an hour each day from 2.45pm till 3.15pm.

"The forgoing hours are intended to protect schoolchildren travelling to and from their homes after school," the decision says. "The much earlier closing time is intended to protect the nearby residents from the nuisance and mayhem of migratory patrons attracted by the current late opening hours and poor management of the premises."

The judge warned other Porirua bottle shops that their trading hours were likely to come under renewed police focus when licences came up for renewal.

Russell School board of trustees chairman Matt Crawshaw said the decision was a victory for the Porirua East community, particularly its children.

"It was a difficult journey that we followed and we felt like we weren't being heard.

"This decision is a tribute to the courage and determination of a very strong neighbourhood and community."

- The Dominion Post

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