Four liquor suppliers fail underage sting

NEIL RATLEY AND AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2014

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Four Invercargill alcohol suppliers have been busted selling booze to a minor during an undercover police sting.

Police, Public Health South and the Invercargill City Council Licensing inspector conducted a controlled purchase operation in Invercargill testing compliance with the newly-enforced sale and supply of alcohol laws.

Sergeant John Harris, the officer in charge of the alcohol harm reduction unit, said police sent a 17-year-old girl into 13 assorted premises including taverns, restaurants, bottle stores and other off-licence premises.

Of the 13 premises targeted, Southland Tavern, Otatara Four Square, Ziff's Cafe and Bar and Tuatara Cafe failed to comply with national laws, he said.

The breaches would be marked as part of the new law's three strike rule, he said.

In two of the incidents the sale was made with no questions being asked, Mr Harris said.

If the person buying alcohol appeared under the age of 25 years it was not difficult to ask for ID and do the maths on the ID presented, he said. "If you're not good at maths ask a workmate to help."

Two of the businesses busted in the sting said failing the test was "gutting" after working so hard to do the right thing.

Ziff's Cafe and Bar manager Tracey Gamble said the result was a "massive kick in the guts" for the business after never failing a compliance check for the past 11 years.

"Normally we are right on the money and we can't express our disappointment enough," she said.

"We are not taking this lightly and we will reinforce the message of checking ID to all staff. We all care so much for our business and its reputation," she said.

Tuatara Cafe duty manager Alysse Cross said the incident happened during a very busy time while a staff member was under stress.

But that was no excuse for failing to properly check ID, she said.

"We understand our responsibilities and don't want the community to think we sell alcohol to kids," Ms Cross said. "We are not that kind of business." Lessons had been learned and extra staff would be rostered on duty during busy times to help staff serve alcohol responsibly, Ms Cross said.

Representatives from Southland Tavern and Otatara Four Square could not be reached for comment yesterday. 

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