Underage sales see Super Liquor licence suspensions

Super Liquor stores in Dunedin and Mosgiel were temporarily closed recently by the Liquor Licensing Authority after staff sold alcohol to a 16-year-old girl.

The girl bought a bottle of wine from each outlet during a police controlled purchase operation on February 24 last year, held to coincide with the University of Otago Orientation Week toga party.

The authority suspended the off-licence of Super Liquor Mosgiel for 24 hours from 7am on January 4, as well as the off-licence of Super Liquor Dunedin for 48 hours from 7am on December 28 last year.

It was the second such suspension for Super Liquor Dunedin, which was closed for 24 hours in January 2009 for selling alcohol to a person under 18 years of age during a police operation.

Licensee Trish McCarthy, of Mosgiel, said she and husband Ken had operated the Mosgiel franchise for almost 12 years and it was the first time such an incident had occurred.

The couple have had the Dunedin franchise for more than five years.

Mrs McCarthy said the stores had robust procedures and staff were well trained.

All employees went through a liquor licensing course to receive general manager's certificates and underwent regular training where they signed acknowledgments of procedure at least quarterly, she said.

''Our staff are well aware of the rules and ramifications. But unfortunately a couple of staff members have neglected to follow procedure,'' she said.

Super Liquor Dunedin's off-licence was renewed by the authority for a ''truncated period'' of 21 months from March 5, 2012.

In its written decision following a hearing last month, the authority said Dunedin police conducted the February controlled purchase operation because university Orientation Week was regarded as the highest risk week for alcohol abuse by first-year students.

The toga party was organised by the Otago University Students' Association and targeted first-year students.

''Young drinkers, many experiencing their first week away from home, were in abundance as they made their way past licensed premises. Obviously, Orientation Week poses particular difficulties for holders of liquor licences and appropriate measures are required to make sure that liquor abuse problems do not arise,'' the authority said.

About 8.30pm, the 16-year-old volunteer bought a bottle of wine from Super Liquor Mosgiel without being asked her age or to present any form of identification.

An hour later, she bought another bottle of wine from Super Liquor Dunedin, again without being asked her age or to provide identification.

The Mosgiel cashier, who had been employed at the store since December 2011, was dismissed as a result of the incident, the authority said.

Both the Dunedin store cashier and temporary manager at the time of the sale were young and relatively recent employees, it said.

''The licensee, who gives the impression of being a very experienced and concerned licensee, was inclined to blame inexperienced staff members for the problems that have arisen,'' the authority said.

It said McCarthy Enterprises Ltd, of which Mr and Mrs McCarthy were the sole directors, needed to address issues to do with business expansion, staff supervision and appointment, as well as procedures to prevent underage people entering supervised premises even before they attempted to buy liquor.

- rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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