Liquor outlets named, shamed

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2012
Sergeant John Harris
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ

PROBLEM WAITING TO HAPPEN: Sergeant John Harris says the number of Southland liquor outlets selling booze to minors is unacceptable.

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Southland liquor outlets are under fire for selling booze to minors, with 13 out of 25 premises caught red-handed in the past two police stings.

The controlled sting operations mean police send under-18-year-olds into licensed premises to see whether they could buy liquor.

The latest sting was in Western Southland on May 10, when four out of nine premises sold alcohol to a 15-year-old girl with dental braces.

Sergeant John Harris, the officer in charge of the alcohol harm reduction unit, said the liquor outlets were the Whitehouse Hotel at Lorneville, the Beach House Cafe and Bar at Riverton, the Aparima Tavern at Riverton and the Railway Hotel at Otautau.

Mr Harris said the results were awful, and he questioned what the police had to do to get the message across, saying it was a continuing trend.

"In this latest case, the purchaser was a 15-year-old with dental braces. There was no excuse; she should have been ejected from every premises."

The hospitality industry's own standards were that if people appeared to be under 25 they asked for identification, he said.

"If someone appears to be under 25, ask for ID. No ID, no service. It's pretty simple."

The previous sting was in September, when nine out of 16 premises, including three premises in Bluff, were caught selling alcohol to a minor.

All nine premises admitted the indiscretion and agreed to liquor license suspensions, Mr Harris said.

He said he was unsure why outlets continued to sell liquor to minors, suggesting it could be a lack of staff training, laziness, or monetary motivation, or a combination of all three.

He believed the community expected hotels and liquor outlets to do the right thing, and said minors didn't make rational decisions when they drank alcohol.

"Once they have consumed a bit of alcohol, it's a problem waiting to happen."

Bluff Community Board chairwoman Jan Mitchell, when asked for her thoughts on three of the town's liquor sellers getting busted in September, said it wasn't a good thing for the community, but she was sure lessons would be learnt."I believe human error can creep into any business and, yes, it's disappointing ..."

She said she was not aware of a problem in Bluff with young people drinking.

Mr Harris said police would continue the joint sting operations in future.

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