Alcohol policy on hold

Christchurch bar owners are applauding the city council's "smart move" in holding off on its local alcohol policy (LAP).

The LAP, which would set restrictions on where and when alcohol can be sold in Christchurch, is on hold pending the outcome of legal action in other parts of the country.

Last year, the previous council recommended the new council publicly notify its draft LAP under the provisions of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, but that has yet to happen.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel yesterday said the new council was deliberately holding off making a decision on whether to notify the LAP because it wanted to find out the outcome of legal action pending against other councils who had proceeded with theirs.

Five councils had notified their LAPs and all were being challenged through the courts.

Dalziel said she was concerned the draft LAP did not reflect the fact Christchurch was in a "transitional environment". She was reluctant to push it through and potentially open the council up to legal challenge like in other areas, "some of whose policies contain the same or similar provisions".

"The last thing this council has time for is a legal battle. We are taking, from my perspective, a bit of a wait and see approach."

The previous council's draft LAP attracted more than 4000 submissions, including many from people strongly opposed to the proposal that only bars in a small central city zone would be allowed to stay open until 3am and that majority would have to close by 1am.

In response to those submissions several changes were made to the LAP, including:

Enlarging the proposed area in the central city with a closing time of 3am for taverns, bars, pubs and club. Allowing nightclubs within the central city to stay open until 4am.

Christchurch bar owners applauded the council's latest decision, saying the draft LAP would have been appealed.

Brett Giddens, co-owner of Victoria St bars Revival and Tequila Mockingbird, said it was a "smart move".

"The old council had a bee in their bonnet for some reason and just seemed to ignore a lot of what the public wanted. The LAP they were looking at was just so misinformed," he said.

The Bog Irish Bar owner Max Bremner said it was a "very wise" decision because "we are trying to rebuild our city and it's very hard for us to make decisions on important things like liquor policies". Dalziel said the hold-up would be "a short standstill".

But Baretta director Gregor Ferguson said bar owners needed a resolution as soon as possible.

"We need a decision one way or the other so we can move forward. They might push it out for 12 months," he said.

"We don't know if we should invest more money around here or if we should just sit on our hands and wait."

Giddens said a LAP was "inevitable" but "has to be done right".

The Press