Bar owners toast council’s change of mind
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