Holiday alcohol rules for bars seen as unfair

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 22/09/2012

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Laws dictating when alcohol can be served at Easter need streamlining, says a bar owner taken to the Liquor Licensing Authority.

Police tried to suspend The Happy Tav's on-licence, claiming a barbecue for patrons was a "token effort" to comply with the special holiday trading laws.

Pubs and taverns can sell alcohol on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and the morning of Anzac Day only for the purpose of dining.

The Happy Tav owner Gavin Skinner said he opened the bar from 5pm to 7pm on Good Friday, offering a special barbecue menu. Patrons could buy $5 coupons that entitled them to barbecued venison and sausages served with kumara chips and gravy. People were served alcohol only after they had ordered food, he said.

No-one was eating when police arrived at the Havelock North bar about 6pm.

Sergeant Ray Wylie told a Liquor Licensing Authority hearing in Napier yesterday that the barbecue was a "token effort" to abide by the law. But Mr Skinner said he was still cooking the barbecue when police arrived.

Judge John Hole stopped the hearing because he said police could not prove their evidence. Outside court, Mr Skinner said the law needed to change because there were too many "grey areas".

There were no restrictions on how much people could drink or how long they could remain on the premises before and after their meal.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said bars were treated unfairly on special days because licensed restaurants and clubs could serve alcohol without food.

Mr Robertson said hospitality providers should be treated the same. "In today's world what's a tavern and what's a restaurant?"

The Alcohol Reform Bill before Parliament would treat restaurants and bars the same, with both able to serve alcohol only for dining.

The hospitality industry was calling for a more liberal approach yet politicians were voting in a conservative bill, he said. It restrained visitors and consumers during those holidays, Mr Robertson said.

"We think it should change but the politicians don't agree."

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