Police to question renewal of Wellington's Chaffers New World's booze licence
One of central Wellington's biggest supermarkets is facing a fight to keep its alcohol licence.
New World Wellington City – generally known as Chaffers New World – is applying on Friday for its liquor licence to be renewed, which would typically be a straightforward hearing.
However, police intend to challenge the renewal, and several officers are expected to raise serious concerns about the number of people "sideloading" in the store's car park.
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Sideloading refers to pub-goers drinking cheaper off-licence alcohol in cars or open spaces such as car parks in between visits to bars.
Geraldine Murphy, chairwoman of the Inner City Association, which represents residents and businesses, said "sideloading" in the car park had been one of the major issues that sparked the group's launch in 2009.
"From an historical point of view, that was one of the major areas of concern, but I think there have been improvements in how it's been managed," she said.
If police were opposing the licence, she expected them to have further evidence that would give them cause to do that. "They wouldn't do it lightly."
The supermarket has had a chequered history with alcohol. Earlier this year, it lost its licence to sell alcohol for five days, after being caught selling to under-18s in a police sting.
Two 16-year-old boys were allowed to buy alcohol at the store, despite producing genuine passports when asked for proof of age.
At the time, police identified the car park as a spot that was becoming a sly drinking destination after dark.
Police said they had gained the power to enter private car parks, such as those at Chaffers New World, and could eject and fine people drinking in cars.
In June, police chose the car park as one of five central city locations to enforce a crackdown on public drinking. The blitz resulted in 40 people being fined $250 each in just three hours.
Foodstuffs, which owns New World, said it was "unable to comment" on the licence renewal before Friday's District Licensing Committee hearing at Wellington City Council.
In its 2013 submission on the council's draft local alcohol policy, Foodstuffs argued that restricting alcohol sales, through shortened hours, could have dangerous consequences.
People might then decide to drive to other areas to buy alcohol, raising the likelihood of them drink-driving, it warned.
However, police have said the rise of preloading and sideloading can be directly linked to the increase in the number of off-licences.