When booze brings peo­ple to­gether

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION - By KRIS DANDO

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.

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