Tauranga bars to close earlier under booze rule changes

11:29 am on 27 March 2024
Dark bar, night club

Bars in Tauranga will be calling last drinks before 2am from July. Photo: 123RF

Bars in Tauranga's city centre will close an hour earlier under new rules imposed by the council.

From July, CBD bars will close at 2am instead of 3am. The one-way door policy has been removed so people can enter bars until close.

Currently, people cannot enter a licensed premise after 2am and if they leave, they cannot return.

The earlier close time was among the rules adopted on Monday under Tauranga City Council's Local Alcohol Policy (LAP).

It comes more than two years after the first draft went out for consultation in November 2021.

Miss Gee's Bar and Eatery owner Ashleigh Gee said she could not predict how the earlier closing would go for the late night venues. Her bar is open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.

"The potential tip out at 2am compared to 3am will find us pushing a lot more people out on the street.

"With more people on the street while they get used to the change in time, there is the possibility for more issues to arise."

She hoped taxis and Ubers would adjust to the new times quickly to get people off the streets as soon as possible.

Downtown Tauranga chair Ashleigh Gee said they should be making it easier for businesses.

Miss Gee's owner Ashleigh Gee says she cannot predict how the earlier closing time will impact businesses. Photo: SunLive / John Borren

Gee welcomed the removal of the one-way door policy.

"The main concern was to get people off the street and into safer, controlled environments.

"The removal of the one way door policy should help us to better manage this."

At the Strategy, Finance and Risk Committee meeting on Monday, committee member Rohario Murray said the 2am close was to align with Mount Maunganui's closing time of 1am.

"It would've been great if we could have also had a 1am closing time here in Tauranga."

This had not been consulted on so 2am was worth trying, Murray said.

At an earlier LAP discussion, the committee said it wanted to prevent people travelling from bars in Mount Maunganui to Tauranga to continue drinking.

Commissioner Stephen Selwood said alignment of the times would have been desirable but he supported the 2am close.

The removal of the one-way door policy is shift from previous drafts of the LAP.

The most recent draft the council was set to implement in February had a 2am close with a one-way door policy from 1am.

In December 2023, the council delayed the LAP to consult further with businesses after they raised their concerns with council.

Murray said she was thankful they had extra discussions with Tauranga bar owners and patrons about the effects of the one-way door policy and she supported removing it.

"We've trialled it and just hearing the feedback on whether it works or not is still up for debate."

Tauranga commissioner Bill Wasley.

Commissioner Bill Wasley supports removing the one-way door policy. Photo: John Borren / Sun Media

Commissioner Bill Wasley agreed and said it was helpful to fully understand the operation of the policy.

Wasley said he suspected enforcing the policy was "resource hungry" and if premises did not have to police it they could focus on ensuring there was "appropriate behaviour" in their venue.

The committee also backflipped on the hours alcohol were available to buy from liquor stores and supermarkets.

It initially proposed to shift the time people could buy alcohol from 7am to 10am.

This was met with opposition from supermarkets and retailers who said it would inconvenience their customers.

Wasley said it was more appropriate to look at when sales of alcohol ended and he favoured keeping it at 7am.

Alcohol cannot be sold from an off-licence premises after 10pm.

The council did not consult on final sales time for off-licences in any of its draft LAPs so this could not be changed without community consultation, said regulatory and compliance general manager Sarah Omundsen.

Murray said supermarkets told them stopping alcohol sales before 10am would affect about 2 percent of their customers.

"There's no real potential to reduce any alcohol harm by having an earlier opening time."

The committee also retained the 10pm final sales time for off-licences and agreed to not allow new off-licences to open in areas with a deprivation index of 9 or 10.

The deprivation index measures and area's socioeconomic status, with 10 being the least well-off.

The LAP will come into effect on 8 July.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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