Sauce for the goose?
The battle for a liquor licence by the Pukerua Bay Store may present an interesting counterpoint to the prevailing attitude toward alcohol reform locally.
A community mobilises, backed up by police, in opposition to a new liquor store in their suburb, or an established bottle shop or dairy seeking a licence renewal. It’s a call-to-arms we’ve seen enough times to suggest the Alcohol Reform Bill – which would give the community greater say in the approval of liquor licences and ban booze from dairies – couldn’t be passed soon enough for our residents.
At least that’s how it plays in the eastern suburbs, where there has been greater concentration of small off-licences, and community concern about the social impact of alcohol.
Up north in Pukerua Bay it’s not a church or welfare agency trying to muster community support – it’s the store owner Hemant Patel in an effort to retain the liquor licence – the only one in the village – and perhaps even save his business.
Will Pukerua Bay residents come to the defence of the store? Will they vent their anger at the licensing authority for trying to meddle with their drinking habits?
Or will they suck up a five-minute drive to Mana Esplanade because they – like their neighbours in the East – don’t want to see booze sold in the same shop their kids are sent to buy a bottle of milk?
Northern ward city councillor Euon Murrell is in Mr Patel’s corner, slamming the police policy to oppose all dairy liquor licence applications.
We sympathise with dairy owners who have sold alcohol responsibly and now face a threat to their livelihood. They are the victims of the government trying to make up for past mistakes.
But it’s hard to fault the police opposition, which is in keeping with the intent of the reform bill – which, while awaiting committee approval and a third reading, will likely pass into law this year.
It is also appropriate for the police to oppose dairy off-licences in all cases, rather than pick and choose who of the city’s residents need to be saved from their vices and who can be trusted to consume alcohol responsibly.
Police area commander John Price told us alcohol was a key driver of crime and driving accidents, and that booze problems cut across all classes and neighbourhoods. Fair point, but if lessening the social ills of alcohol is the purpose of the restriction, why stop at dairies? Why not supermarkets?
Many changes made to the Sale of Liquor Act in 1999, including the lowering of the drinking age to 18, defied logic. The reform bill is intended to rectify some of the nonsense, but Lord knows plenty of hypocrisy will remain.