Seven pints and and a bowl of chips please

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 10:55 30/03/2013

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While all bars had to close at midnight on Thursday due to Easter trading restrictions, those looking for a pint on Easter Sunday may need look no further than their local eatery.

The Sale of Liquor Act prevents liquor being sold or supplied on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day or before 1pm on Anzac Day at off-licences or establishments with tavern licences.

But there are many exclusions from the legislation.

Restaurant licences are excluded because their main business purpose is to sell food, so if the proprietors agree, you might be able to get a drink without buying food.

Or if you really want a bottle of vino, you could trek out to a vineyard, as an amendment to the act in 2004 enabled them to sell their own wine on Easter Sunday.

And if you visit a venue with a tavern licence "for the purpose of dining" you should be OK - although the meaning of the phrase is at staff discretion.

It all seems like a bit of a grey area, but Hospitality New Zealand Waikato regional manager Alan Sciascia said there should be no confusion over who can sell what and why as all hospitality outlets have their liquor sale restrictions written plainly on their licences.

So in the case of taverns, what exactly constitutes "dining"? Can you order a bowl of fries to share between your mates while you sink three or four pints of lager? Mr Sciascia says no. Well, probably not.

"My view is that that's just a snack, that's not having a dining experience," he said. "It's probably arguable and every situation is different, but I doubt it would fly if a bowl of fries was considered dining."

But a walk through Hamilton's hospitality precinct yesterday saw many a table full of glasses accompanied by a lone chip bowl. Outlets who fail to comply with liquor sale restrictions face fines of up to $20,000 and have their licence suspended for up to seven days.

And Mr Sciascia warns that police regularly carry out controlled purchasing operations to ensure that premises are sticking to the law. "Police will sometimes send in a person in a covert way to see if the licensee is being compliant," he said. " They'll test them."

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- Waikato Times

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