25 Jun 2015

Dunedin council dumps bar restrictions

7:41 am on 25 June 2015

Dunedin City Council has shied away from introducing tough new rules for bars.

After public consultation on Local Alcohol Policy, the council is recommending dropping a one-way door policy and a provision banning shots of alcohol being sold after midnight.

Drink bar (generic photo)

Photo: 123RF

The first draft of the alcohol plan received more than 4000 submissions and provoked the anger of tertiary student groups and Dunedin bar owners.

The new version confirms the closing hour for clubs and pubs would be 3am, but allows an exemption for venues with live entertainment which could stay open until 4am.

Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams said bars should not be allowed to continue serving shots after midnight.

"It's not a good idea to be selling shots where they are often associated with that heavier drinking and heavier intoxication.

"It can often be involved in competitive type drinking. So I don't know what the rationale is for Dunedin to pull back on that one."

However the policy was a good one overall, she said, especially where it placed a moratorium on new off-licence premises in North Dunedin where most students lived.

"When there's a big congregation of premises, it can also mean the premises are competing for customers and so they're more likely to be open for longer, they're more likely to sell alcohol at cheaper prices.

"Probably they may have considered broadening that moratorium across Dunedin so other communities don't have that problem."

Otago University Students Association president Paul Hunt welcomed the scrapping of the one-way door policy after 1am.

He said it would have discouraged people from drinking in bars and resulted in more students drinking in flats.

"While there will be harm in town, it's better people are in a public environment where problems can be noticed and intervened on rather than in areas where problems may not even be reported at all."

The Otago spokesperson for the Hospitality Association, publican Mark Skully, is happy about the decision to do away with a ban on drinking alcohol in cordoned off areas outside bars after 11pm. He said it was important bars could provide these areas for smokers.

He would like to policy to have addressed the demise of the old student pubs in Dunedin, which he said used used to provide a safe place for scarfies to drink.

Instead, he said, students preload at home and hit the bars at midnight, which can cause problems.

"You know maybe they should put more focus back on perhaps a licenced premises in North Dunedin which could be run by the university which focused on good cheap meals, entertainment, certainly perhaps the liquor a little bit cheaper.

"And if it did run at a loss, well, maybe that's the cost of looking after their students."

The council will vote on Monday on the Provisional Local Alcohol Policy. It will then be opened up to appeals.

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