Wake-up call for race clubs

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 05:00 19/10/2012
tdn race stand
Drinking at the races may not produce such scenes in the future.

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Racing clubs across the country are slowly beginning to realise they needed to step up their game and tighten the rules around alcohol, Taranaki Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Carey Hobbs says.

Mr Hobbs' comments come after booze-fuelled bad behaviour marred during and after the Egmont Racing Club's feature raceday on Saturday.

He said an overhaul of the way the bars at New Plymouth's Pukekura Raceway were run had ensured there were no significant problems during the dozens of meetings held there in the last two years.

"We've got up to speed with all legal requirements that they've got and some of these were things they didn't have in Hawera," Mr Hobbs said.

The New Plymouth club has instituted measures including security guards at the gates all day during race meetings, a ticketing system which limits the amount of alcohol people can consume in the corporate area, a bar manager in every bar and regular host responsibility meetings for all bar staff.

"We take our liquor licensing responsibilities very seriously."

Mr Hobbs said it meant staff had on occasion had to tell some long-time racegoers to stop drinking.

"It means we've had to tell some of our regulars that's their last drink, they've had enough."

While he admitted the liquor licensing regulations had become much stricter over the last few decades, he said people would just have to get used to it.

"Any way you look at it the rules are the rules and you've got to take a hard line with them.

"It started with the bigger clubs in Auckland and Wellington, and then it's trickled down to New Plymouth and eventually it will trickle down to Hawera and other smaller clubs."

Mr Hobbs said other clubs nationally were also facing the same issues.

"The police closed down two bars in Hastings this October because they had no bar managers. It's definitely not just a Hawera problem."

Police made six arrests for drunkenness and a host of other alcohol-related offences and also charged a racegoer allegedly found naked and wrestling with another man and three women in the female toilets.

The events have put the club's liquor licence in jeopardy.

While racing is the draw for many punters, losing a liquor licence would still be a substantial blow to any racing club, Mr Hobbs said.

"Having bars and hospitality and food is an important part of a day at the races."

Hawera senior sergeant Blair Burnett said police would be meeting with the Egmont Racing Club who had approached police wanting to discuss the issues and the future.

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"They are not happy about what went on at the weekend and are wanting to work with the police," Mr Burnett said.

Police are still investigating issues surrounding the liquor licensing at Saturday's race meeting, he said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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