Alcohol policy costly, says bar

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2014

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Champagne breakfasts and watching early-morning sport at the pub could become a thing of the past, a New Plymouth publican has warned.

Doc van Praagh, of Crowded House, says the New Plymouth District Council's proposal to change bar opening hours could affect events like the America's Cup and overseas All Blacks games.

This month councillors approved the local alcohol policy and released it for public consultation.

If passed, bars in town would not be able to open before 8am without a special licence.

Van Praagh, who has run Crowded House for 17 years, said moving the time from 7am to 8am could mean early- morning events were off the cards.

While Crowded House did not usually open at 7am, it often did if a sports match were on or if a company ordered a champagne breakfast.

But if the proposed changes go through then bars would have to apply for a special licence every time they wanted to open early.

They would also have to pay for each licence, van Praagh said.

He said costs were already mounting on publicans.

In December, the cost of renewing a licence for an inner-city bar rose from $700 every three years, to $1100 a year and $1200 for the renewal, he said.

"It'll be yet another cost."

The council's proposal initially suggested a 2am closing time for bars and nightclubs in the CBD.

Although councillors voted to send the proposal out for consultation with a 3am closing time, it was still likely the final decision could be to close bars at 2am.

Van Praagh said publicans, the Hospitality Association New Zealand, police, Taranaki Health and the council had worked together during the past four years to improve behaviour in town on Friday and Saturday nights.

"There was a lot of media attention about how bad it was in town, but we've worked hard, it's not like that any more," he said.

About four years ago the organisations got together and established the Alcohol Accord, of which van Praagh is the chairman.

"It's great. We meet and talk about any issues or anything difficult and how we can sort it out.

"We aim to strike a balance between commercial prosperity and social responsibility. We all want to make money but we care about the environment too," he said.

When the accord was established it was given funding from central government for walkie talkies, extra surveillance cameras, high-visibility vests and radio advertisements on responsible drinking.

"We have been trying really hard to create a good culture in town," he said.

"And if it's it's not broken, don't fix it."

Closing bars at 2am would not solve any remaining issues, he said, and the better option would be to continue to educate patrons and the public about the type of behaviour that would be tolerated.

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That's where van Praagh's six security staff played a big role.

Unlike in the past, security staff now have to undergo a police check and training to be employed by bars.

They monitor who comes in through the doors and also the behaviour of those inside.

"They keep an eye on everything, all the time," he said.

The council's proposal would also mean supermarkets and other off-licence premises being limited to selling alcohol between 10am and 9pm.

Public consultation on the local alcohol policy runs until June 6.

- Taranaki Daily News

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