Push to close bars at 2am

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 04/03/2014
nightclub stand
Bars and clubs may soon be forced to close at 2am.
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A new alcohol policy could see inner city bars and clubs shut at 2am in an effort to cut down on alcohol problems in the region.

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

New legislation allows communities to write their own alcohol policies to suit their district and a new combined policy is being looked at by both the New Plymouth and Stratford district councils before being put out for public consultation.

Alcohol-related problems cost the Taranaki District Health Board nearly $350,000 a year and New Plymouth police received more than 3000 calls a year, roughly nine a day, that were alcohol-related. Stratford police received more than 250 alcohol-related calls a year.

Taranaki DHB medical officer of health Jonathan Jarman said a Ministry of Justice study found that licensed premises closing between 3am and 5am had 8.9 times the expected rate of police offences compared with licensed premises closing at midnight.

"The longer the opening hours for pubs and clubs and off-licences, the greater the risk for people to get drunk and cause harm. It is as simple as that. There is evidence from all around the world that shows this," he said.

The harm caused by alcohol was one of the bigger public health issues in Taranaki, Dr Jarman said.

"The $345,348 per year only related to ED visits so it is only the tip of the health iceberg."

And most of the people going to ED for alcohol-related issues arrived between 1am and 4am.

The new legislation gave communities a chance to decide how much alcohol-related harm they were prepared to tolerate, he said.

"I believe that it should be their decision, not those who make a profit from alcohol. We need to bear in mind that alcohol does not only affect the person drinking. Family and children, friends and associates, innocent bystanders and communities also suffer alcohol-related harm."

Publican and CBD Liquor Accord chairman Doc van Praagh said he wasn't happy with "at all" with the idea of having to close at 2am, especially as the national policy was 4am.

"A lot of pubs rely on their nightclub trade to make ends meet. That means they lose an hour's trading at the busiest time of the week. That's not good for many businesses."

In the weekends a number of inner city pubs and clubs currently shut at 3am.

"When there are events on in town with a lot of tourists, they'd think we're backward closing at 2am."

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Mr van Praagh was meeting with the police and council representatives next week to discuss the issue.

A report given to the councils by New Plymouth and Stratford police said there was a positive correlation between later closing times and the rate of alcohol-related offences associated with licensed premises.

Police received more calls between 9pm Saturday and 5am Sunday than any other time. Other peak times were from 8pm Friday night and 5am Saturday and 9pm Thursday night to 3am Friday.

Stratford District Council would release the proposal for public consultation on March 12 with submissions to be made before April 9. The New Plymouth District Council would discuss the proposal at a meeting on April 8, before releasing it for public consultation.

- Taranaki Daily News

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