Bar crawls under threat
Bar crawls in Queenstown could be no more after moves to shut down guided bar tours began last week.
Liquor licence holders for 12 bars that host bar crawls were called to a meeting with Lakes Environmental regulatory and corporate services manager Lee Webster, as well as representatives from Queenstown police and Public Health South, last Thursday.
Lakes Environmental is the regulatory arm of the Queenstown Lakes District Council, and manages liquor licences on behalf of the council.
Webster told The Mirror he had called the owners of three bar crawl companies to a meeting in August and explained concerns their businesses contravened the basic principles of the Liquor Act's section 154a and specific complaints had been received about bar crawls.
Yesterday, he said the latest meeting had been to inform licence holders that no concerns had been addressed by the bar crawl companies and that Lakes Environmental would take the matter to the Liquor Licensing Authority if the bar crawl businesses had not ceased operations by December 1.
"These companies have been charging between $15 and $35 to visit six bars, typically with food served in the middle of a three to four-hour experience," he said.
Eleven of the 12 licence holders currently hosting bar crawls had agreed to stop hosting crawl customers while one was still undecided. A wider section of liquor licence holders were informed at an annual licensee meeting this week..
"The vast majority understood, but not everyone agreed, and rightly so," Webster said.
Kiwi Bar Crawl director Gavin Larsen said the move was seen as heavy-handed, bully-boy tactics.
"I asked to be privy to the meeting, but wasn't let in. Their angle has been to pressure licensees because there's no legislation governing bar crawls and they're using section 154a to put pressure on when they don't have any proof of excess drinking."
Checks and balances were in place to ensure excessive drinking did not take place, including continually monitoring drinking levels and being assessed by door staff when customers entered a new premises every 40 minutes.
He knew of no complaints received by police or the council in his 4 years of operations.
"...A bar crawl offers new arrivals to Queenstown the chance to meet people. A girl who may not feel safe going out by herself will feel safe coming out with us because it's a managed situation," Larsen said.
The law says:
"Section 154a of the Sale Of Liquor Act 1989 provides that a licensee or manager of a licensed premises commits an offence if they do anything in the promotion of the business conducted on the premises or in the promotion of any event or activity held or conducted on the premises that is likely to encourage persons on the premises to consume alcohol to an excessive extent." (Source: The Whangarei District Licensing Agency liquor licensing policy.)