When booze brings people together
Stories where the community comes together for a cause are the lifeblood of newspapers like Kapi- Mana News.
In my time working here there have been many that register – Porirua has always seemed to have people prepared to stand up/ march/submit for what they feel is important.
Whether it’s a liquor store in their neighbourhood or a wake park on Aotea Lagoon, citizens are stirred into action.
While we have a duty to be objective, sometimes the red pen is needed on drafts of my stories to keep my own feelings on a subject at bay. It’s not easy, sometimes.
The eastern suburbs of Porirua do not need more liquor stores and why should one of the most prominent – with its eye-catching advertising, cheap prices and long opening hours – be re-issued with its liquor licence? That was the question from more than 100 people who marched from the canopies to the Liquor Licensing Authority two weeks ago; they felt Thirsty Liquor (formerly Fantame Liquor Store) had no place in their suburb.
Drunks at 9am, broken glass, urine and the fact Russell School pupils were walking past liquor advertising every day, as if it should be part of their everyday lives, was enough for a large section of the community to say ‘‘no more’’.
It brought back memories of a similar protest in 2008, against a proposed bottle store opposite Cannons Creek School. The public submissions, along with testimony from the Medical Officer of Health and objections from police, was enough to ensure the venture never got off the ground.
But Thirsty Liquor is wellestablished and owner Chiman Patel is adamant buying alcohol from his premises comes down to personal responsibility. While alcohol was sold to a minor this year in a police sting, it was the first time since 2005 and he has passed five CPOS in the last 12 months.
I’m a big believer in the personal responsibility credos but there is enough feeling from the citizens of eastern Porirua that Thirsty Liquor is too cheap, too much temptation for people who should be spending their money elsewhere.
Just before lunch, the hearing turned on its head and led to an unsatisfactory ending for objectors, many of whom had taken the day off work to attend. During questioning on the workings of his businesses from the judges, Mr Patel was asked about the liquor advertising above the foodmarket entrance and the fact the tills from the foodmarket and the bottle store were identical.
It was riveting stuff – not quite Boston Legal but you could feel the air get sucked out of the courtroom as Mr Patel sat under the intense gaze of Judge Hole, who was visibly unhappy with the way proceedings were playing out.
The awkward silences from Mr Patel as he struggled to answer how his business structure worked (it’s illegal for a foodmarket to sell spirits) and the way he looked imploringly at his lawyer, who had a grim ‘‘ uh oh’’ expression, was almost theatrical.
With Mr Patel conceding to Judge Hole’s assertion that he had, in fact, one business, the objectors in the gallery began coming to the correct conclusion that Mr Patel was operating illegally, so there were murmur- ings akin to ‘‘this is good . . . is it?’’
Judge Hole, however, concluded after the lunch break that it was regretful they could not continue until Mr Patel ‘‘gets his house in order’’. An adjournment was the fairest verdict he could come to.
There was disbelief among those who moved out slowly of the courthouse. While their written submissions will still be considered when the hearing restarts next year, many will not be able to attend again. Mr Patel will continue to sell alcohol through the summer and the community will see no resolution in sight.
It was a day of drama, with commitment and action from a dedicated group within Porirua garnering national media attention with their efforts. Ultimately, however, their labours were in vain with the only real winners being the lawyers.
I was glad to be along for the ride but like the objectors, left feeling a bit cheated with what eventuated.
Loud and clear: More than 100 people walked from the canopies in Porirua’s CBD to the Porirua District Court building on November 30, voicing their opposition to Thirsty Liquor in Fantame St.