Caution on liquor laws urged
Overhauls of liquor licensing and alcohol sale rules will soon begin but any radical changes should be approached with caution, a prominent Queenstown bar operator warns.
Under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 district and city councils have until December 18 this year to appoint a three-person District Licensing Committee.
Each committee will take over alcohol licensing duties for its area, putting a local emphasis on alcohol matters or local problems.
During tomorrow's Queenstown Lakes District Council meeting it is likely the council will authorise a working party to appoint a Queenstown District Licensing Committee.
December is also when the council has signalled its draft Local Alcohol Plan will be released for public consultation.
When it is enacted, after public consultation, the plan will become the blueprint for alcohol sales and consumption for its area.
Good Group chief executive Russell Gray said he would be keen to see the draft plan come December, but he warned hat Queenstown's resort reputation was intrinsically linked to its nightlife scene, and licensed premises needed to be able to continue operating much as they had been.
"I think the council needs to be extremely conscious that Queenstown is a leading tourism destination, and people come here for all sorts of reasons, but the biggest reason is to have fun, and Queenstown's vibrant nightlife is a huge part of that."
While alcohol consumption invariably played a part in late night incidents in the resort, an unfair focus was often put on bars.
"Studies show that 70 per cent of alcohol is consumed in people's homes, whether that be flats, apartments or mansions in Queenstown, and the focus of problem drinking or violent behaviour always seems to fall on bars," Mr Gray said. "Bars may be where people end up, but with the proliferation of cheap drinks available at supermarkets, and a trend to pre-load before people come into town and enter a bar, you have to look at the big picture. And that is that bars are not the problem, and making closing times earlier for bars will not make one bit of difference in terms of problem alcohol behaviour.
"Bars need to be able to continue operating in the status quo environment - if it ain't broke, it doesn't need fixing."
Good Group runs five Queenstown bars, two Christchurch bars and restaurants, and the Botswana Butchery restaurants in Queenstown and Auckland
Christchurch's draft policy, released in June, proposes an almost blanket closing time for bars of 1am.
The draft policy is coming under heavy fire from bar owners, but also unexpected quarters like the University of Canterbury and the real estate industry, who respectively say the proposed rules will make it hard to attract students, and discourage hospitality development.
Under the draft policy a one-way door rule would be in place from 1am for bars and nightclubs in the central city, with only bars and nightclubs in a small entertainment precinct able to apply for a liquor licence to stay open to 3am.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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