Hospitality industry 'unduly blamed'

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014

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Southland pub, club, and restaurant owners say they are being held responsible for a drinking culture that takes place outside of their doors.

The Southland hospitality industry was well represented at a Hospitality New Zealand industry breakfast at the Kelvin Hotel yesterday.

The meeting aimed to develop and promote closer working relationships between the councils, police and licensees ahead of the release of the district-wide draft Local Alcohol Policy.

However, after hearing from Invercargill City and Southland District Council environmental health managers John Youngson and Michael Sarfaiti and Southland area manager prevention Inspector Olaf Jensen, many licensees and industry members believed licensed premises were not the problem.

Paddington Arms owner Graham Hawkes said the hospitality industry and licensees were being held responsible for issues related to alcohol when in reality the large percentage of consumption and problems occurred outside of licensed premises.

Mr Hawkes quoted figures that stated about 76 per cent of alcohol was bought outside licensed premises but it was still licensees bearing the brunt of legislative changes.

The possible introduction of a one-way-door policy, which would restrict access to bars after 1am and changes to the way licensed premises are able to do promotions were further impositions on an already strongly regulated industry.

Health Promotion Agency southern region manager Gilbert Taurua said New Zealand had a drinking culture and often licensed premises were a victim of this culture. Other avenues to curb the entrenched culture of heavy drinking by people before heading out needed to be looked at.

Mr Youngson said the Local Alcohol Policy was designed to provide a safe drinking environment and it favoured drinking in licensed premises.

Despite alcohol "not being in the faces" of Southlanders, the region had one of the highest admittance rates to hospitals for youth alcohol issues, he said. "A lot of drinking is pre-loading and through this policy we are trying to get drinking into licensed premises. It's a safer environment."

The one-way-door policy was a bone of contention for licensees.

It is heavily backed by police who believe it will reduce violence and alcohol harm through reducing queuing and aimless wandering between premises.

However, the industry doesn't believe it will make a difference.

Invercargill Licensing Trust general manager Greg Mulvey said the trust still opposed the one-way-door policy. "It was counter to encouraging people to drink in licensed premises."

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Ranch Bar and Grill owner Daniel Anderson was concerned that if Queenstown and Wanaka did not adopt similar policies, people may choose to head there.

"We could be outcasts across the border once again."

Hospitality New Zealand deputy chief executive Sara Tucker said the association applauded the councils' efforts to encourage people to drink in licensed premises, but they needed to be careful that the new rules did not go to far and in fact hurt licensees.

The draft Local Alcohol Policy has been endorsed by the Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council and will be endorsed at the next Gore District Council.

Submissions will then open until March 24.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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