Opposition to bar hours extension

Ratbags representative Gavin Ellis has hit back at suggestions that extending the bar's opening hours to allow patrons to watch Fifa World Cup games would increase alcohol-related harm in the Octagon.

The District Licensing Committee yesterday heard the special licence application from Ratbags to open in June and July between 4am and 8am when televised coverage of the games would be shown.

Committee chairman Colin Weatherall said after the hearing a decision was likely to be released later this week.

The application was opposed by police and Public Health South on the grounds that it was nothing more than a continuation of normal trading and there was a real risk of alcohol-related harm in the area.

''Ratbags is a high-risk zone for alcohol-related harm ... Allowing for this premises to be open when others in the area are closing will create a honey pot effect where patrons, some of whom will be intoxicated, will be drawn [to] the only premises open,'' alcohol harm prevention officer Sergeant Ian Paulin, of Dunedin, said in a submission.

Police and PHS also questioned whether watching cup games on television was an ''event'' under the legislation, given past legal decisions.

In his submission, Mr Ellis said the application was ''not, and never was'', an excuse to extend licensing hours for weekend revellers.

The aim was to give staff work during the slow June-July period, as well as providing a service to the city and people who wanted to watch their favourite or home country team competing while ''in a safe and controlled environment with other football enthusiasts''.

He suggested the bar was contemplating breathalysing people coming into the bar for the games if security was unsure of their ''status''.

Under the ''three strikes and loss of licence law'' it was not in his interests to have non-football patrons on the premises during the event, he said.

Previous similar events at the bar indicated about 1.6 drinks per person were bought, with alcoholic drinks averaging at 1 per person, less than the four-drink guideline given by health professionals, while food made up the 60% of the bar's revenue, he said.

The Fifa World Cup was one of the most watched events around the world and in New Zealand.

''A very significant event,'' Mr Ellis said.

The Fire Service also opposed the extension as Ratbags did not have an approved evacuation scheme.

Mr Ellis said work was under way to put a scheme in place.

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