Liquor store 'unhelpful' - councillor

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 27/01/2014
Victory Liquor Centre
Fairfax NZ

NEW VENTURE: The Victory Liquor Centre at Victory Square.

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Members of the Victory community are concerned as to how a new liquor store has popped up in the neighbourhood without them having a say.

Nelson city councillor Matt Lawrey, who lives in the area, said that while the new Victory Liquor Centre was operating within a current licence, there would be an opportunity to object when it came up for renewal next January.

Mr Lawrey said it was his personal view that opening a store that sold "cheap liquor in a lower socio-economic community" was "a very unhelpful thing to do".

The Victory community successfully led a recent charge against gaming machines in the neighbourhood.

"I think people feel very disappointed after the pokies issue, to see another business opening in the area that could have a negative impact on the community," Mr Lawrey said.

"I know some people are talking like that and don't support it, and others would see it as a useful service."

He said many residents also wanted to know how the owner was able to open the store without an application for the licence being advertised.

Christchurch businessman Sunny Singh Bal opened the Victory Liquor Centre in what had been Randall's Cafe and Bar on the corner of Toi Toi and St Vincent Sts just before Christmas.

He was able to open the store without an application for the licence being advertised because the licence came with the business.

Mr Lawrey said Randall's had both an on-licence and an off-licence, initially issued in January 2011 and renewed a year later.

Mr Bal then bought the company that operated Randall's. He did not have to apply for the licences, as they were held by the company and not the individual shareholders, Mr Lawrey said.

He said that as long as the new shareholders notified the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority of the change of shareholding, they could continue to operate without any other approval.

Mr Lawrey said other residents had questioned why a liquor store was different to the bar that had been on the site. He said people socialised in a supervised atmosphere at a pub or bar, but a bottle store did not offer the same function.

Mr Bal said he was aware that he was not going to please everyone. The argument that a pub and a bottle store were different "doesn't hold much power".

He said he was operating the business according to the law, and the Victory community was supporting it well.

"We are performing our duty and performing it well, and I'm more than happy if someone wants to sit there and have a drink."

Plans for an Indian takeaway in an area of the bottle store were still on the drawing board, but a consent application to install the kitchen had yet to be lodged, he said.

"I'm definitely proceeding with it, but it's moving slowly."

Mr Bal said he would consider setting up an area where people could order takeaway food and sit and have a drink with it. He planned to ensure that anyone coming in for food only did not have to pass through the bottle store.

Nelson Bays police area commander Inspector Steve Greally said he was not aware of any increase in alcohol-related disorder recently that could be attributed to the opening of a new liquor outlet in the Victory area.

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There was nothing linking it with the recent disorder that led to the arrests of five teenagers in Victory Square after a party in Vanguard St got out of hand, he said.

However, the police were "very clear" about the relationship between young people and alcohol-related offending, and would continue to do all they could to prevent people becoming victims of alcohol-related harm.

Mr Greally said it would be inappropriate for the police to comment on private enterprise, but if the new liquor outlet did become a problem, they would be looking at it closely.

He said police would be watching all off-licences with interest. They would all be subjected to controlled purchase operations at some stage.

Mr Lawrey said anyone concerned about the new store could object at the time of the licence renewal on January 25 next year.

"I know it's a year away, but I would encourage everyone who is concerned about the Victory Liquor Centre to keep an eye out for the public notice advertising the application to renew the licence and make a submission," he said.

- The Nelson Mail

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