Bar own­ers toast coun­cil’s change of mind

Central Leader - - News - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

An about-turn by Auck­land City Coun­cil on the pro­posed liquor li­cens­ing pol­icy has de­lighted bar and restau­rant own­ers.

Coun­cil­lor Aaron Bhat­na­gar an­nounced on Mon­day the draft pol­icy, which pro­posed clos­ing times of 11pm for sub­ur­ban on-li­cense bars, would no longer be go­ing ahead.

“Com­mon sense has pre­vailed,” says Hos­pi­tal­ity As­so­ci­a­tion re­gional man­ager Sara Tucker.

“It was a very flawed pol­icy. It was never go­ing to achieve any­thing that they wanted it to achieve in terms of al­co­hol-re­lated crime.”

Cur­rently liquor li­cences are judged on a case-by-case ba­sis and the pol­icy aimed to pro­vide a more con­sis­tent frame­work for liquor li­cens­ing de­ci­sions.

The changes would have seen bars and restau­rants out­side the cen­tral city and main en­ter­tain­ment precincts, such as Pon­sonby and Par­nell, close at 11pm or mid­night with an ex­tended li­cence.

It was met with a hos­tile re­sponse by the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try which de­nounced it as back­ward think­ing, es­pe­cially in light of the up­com­ing Rugby World Cup.

The de­ci­sion to re­move the re­stric­tions was greeted with re­lief by a large crowd of hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives at a meet­ing with Mr Bhat­na­gar on Mon­day morn­ing.

“There are a lot of re­lieved busi­ness own­ers who were fac­ing los­ing their busi­nesses,” says Ms Tucker.

Owner of the Kings Arms Tav­ern in New­ton, Mau­reen Gor­don, says she’s happy with the de­ci­sion and com­mended Auck­land city mayor John Banks and Mr Bhat­na­gar for their quick de­ci­sion.

“Every­one’s very ex­cited by it,” she says.

“It gives us time for an­other look at where we should be head­ing.”

The con­se­quences of the pol­icy could have been dis­as­trous for her venue which of­ten has bands start­ing as late as 10pm.

In his speech, Mr Bhat­na­gar called the pol­icy “fa­tally flawed”.

“We re­alised that the im­pact on some busi­nesses is such that they could go out of busi­ness,” he says.

“It’s bet­ter to be decisive than to be si­lent.”

He says while there are still con­cerns about noise lev­els and al­co­hol-re­lated crime, the coun­cil would find ways in which it could pro­vide cer­tainty to neigh­bour­hoods.

He says it makes sense to with­draw the pol­icy be­fore peo­ple spent a lot of time and money on mak­ing sub­mis­sions dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod.

Mr Bhat­na­gar says it also makes more sense to wait un­til af­ter de­ci­sions on the Law Com­mis­sion’s re­view of liquor leg­is­la­tion and the su­per city have been made be­fore any pol­icy was de­signed.

A spe­cial meet­ing of the city de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee is ex­pected to be held next week where the with­drawal will be of­fi­cially en­dorsed.

Coun­cil­lor Aaron Bhat­na­gar

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