Supermarket alcohol sale hours face chop

The booze aisle in your local supermarket could soon be roped off at certain times.
The booze aisle in your local supermarket could soon be roped off at certain times.

Alcohol aisles in Hamilton supermarkets could soon be roped off outside designated purchasing hours.

Bringing supermarkets in line with other off-license premises is one of a number of proposals expected to be put forward as part of Hamilton City Council's review of licensing laws.

City Councillor Angela O'Leary, one of four councillors involved in drafting the council's local alcohol policy (LAP), said the draft policy currently recommended scaling back off-licence hours. And supermarkets selling booze, many of which open at 7am, would have to toe the line as well.

"If you can't buy at your local suburban store, are they saying you should still be able to rock up at midnight, or 24 hours to some supermarkets, and buy liquor. I don't think that is fair," Ms O'Leary said. "It is my feeling that the majority view of council will be to have a blanket off-licence that is all the same."

Ms O'Leary said alcohol aisles could be cordoned off, but self-regulation could also be an option.

Local councils were given new powers to shape LAPs as a result of changes to New Zealand's liquor laws in December.

Hamilton City Council is just 19 days away from adopting a draft policy for consultation.

The working group's proposals are likely to focus on off-license outlets and, in particular, regulations around the prominence of advertising, opening hours and location.

It would be suggested that opening hours be restricted to between "9 or 10am" to "around 10pm", Ms O'Leary said. "At the moment we have some liquor stores that open at seven o'clock in the morning and there's concern from some in the community whether that is necessary."

She also said council would be looking at the concentration of off-licences in lower socio-economic areas, as council mapping showed a high concentration in those areas.

However, some groups are pushing for even stricter regulations.

John Denny, who is an administrator with Alcohol Action Hamilton, said his group would like to see on-license premises close by 2am (most central city on-licenses now close at 3am).

Mr Denny acknowledged there would be opposition, but said the focus was on harm reduction.

He is part of a loose-knit group including Poverty Action Waikato, Anglican Action, Alcohol Healthwatch and members of the University of Waikato who are planning a public meeting to raise awareness about the city's LAP.

The group is pushing for increased notifications when licences are applied for and renewed, and wants supermarkets included in any restrictions to trading hours.

Robert Moore, a researcher at Anglican Action and one of the organisers of the meeting, said increased public notifications would give the community more of a voice in decisions.

"Under the current notification requirement, it just doesn't encourage community participation."

A draft policy will be presented for council consultation on June 25 and public consultation will open between July 7 and August 8.

The earliest the LAP can come into force is January 18, 2014, while restrictions to trading hours can only come into force three months after an LAP is implemented in order to give licensees time to make staffing changes and prepare.

The public meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 11, at the Anglican Action Conference Room, 100 Morrinsville Rd, Te Ara Hou Village, Hamilton. RSVP

Waikato Times