Drinking restraints proposed in city

A tougher approach to alcohol in Dunedin could put an end to late-night alcohol shots in bars and clear outdoor areas of drinkers as early as 11pm.

The proposals are among changes suggested in the Dunedin City Council's draft local alcohol policy, made public yesterday ahead of public consultation beginning next month.

The policy, aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm, suggests bars should close at 3am, an hour earlier than the present closing time, and an earlier 1am start to the one-way door policy.

Bar staff would be banned from selling shots of alcohol after midnight, and bars' outdoor seating areas - on public footpaths - could be cleared of drinkers from as early as 11pm.

There would also be new restrictions on alcohol retailers wanting to set up shop near schools, while supermarkets and bottle stores would have to stop selling alcohol an hour earlier, at 10pm.

Octagon bar owners and the Hospitality Association of New Zealand's Otago branch president, Mark Scully, warned they were preparing to fight the changes, which would hurt businesses and cost jobs.

However, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull stressed the proposals were not yet policy, and the council wanted to hear from its community before making final decisions.

The Octagon could be a vibrant while occasionally ''threatening'' late-night environment, but any changes to opening hours needed to tackle alcohol-related harm and not simply be a ''knee jerk'' response, he said.

''I have reservations about any change that has not got some evidential basis.''

The draft policy has been developed with input from councillors, police, health authorities and hospitality industry representatives.

It would be considered at Monday's full council meeting before being released for public consultation.

The consultation period would run from September 1 to October 10 and be followed by a public hearing.

A report by council alcohol licensing officer Kevin Mechen said police data showed offending peaked after midnight, and was more serious the closer it got to 4am.

Evidence showed earlier closing times led to a ''significant decrease'' in problems elsewhere, and police believed new limits on drinking in outdoor spaces would further reduce conflict between patrons and those queuing to get in.

At present, bars' outdoor areas were not covered by alcohol licences, and bars used public footpaths ''at the pleasure of the council'', Mr Mechen said.

The proposal would extend licences to include outdoor areas, and drinking could be prohibited in the outdoor areas after a set time, ''such as 11pm'', he said.

Banning the sale of shots of alcohol after midnight would reduce consumption, which accelerated with intoxication.

Supermarkets and other off-licences, as well as being forced to stop selling alcohol sooner, would also be prevented from selling individual serves of beer, cider, or RTDs - but not boutique beers - altogether.

Terrace Bar owner John MacDonald, who was yet to see details of the proposals, said they appeared ''heavily biased'' against bars, when the target should be cheap supermarket sales which encouraged ''pre-loading'' at home.

A one-way door policy, earlier closure of outdoor areas to drinkers and other restrictions would be ''challenging'' to manage for bar staff, and would encourage people to drink at home, he said.

That would hurt businesses and could cost jobs, meaning many Octagon bar owners would oppose the changes.

''It is going to, without doubt, have a significant impact on all of the bars around the Octagon, and there's some pretty severe consequences for some of them, so I'm sure there's definitely going to be appeals.''

Octagon bar owner Grant Ellis agreed, saying 1000 full and part-time jobs across the city could be affected - through job losses or reduced hours - as the industry adjusted to a drop in trade.

Mr Scully said the early closure of outdoor areas would be ''very controversial'', but other restrictions would also create problems.

Earlier closing hours would bring alcohol-related problems forward, not prevent them, and forcing large numbers of people on to the street at the same time would create conflict, he said.

He agreed the focus should be on supermarket sales, not bars, which were ''the safest place for young people to be''.

''To me, that's a whole lot safer environment than people having a party in a park at 5am.''

National Addiction Centre director Prof Doug Sellman agreed the policy should do more to control supermarket sales, but dismissed concerns about jobs based on numbers ''plucked out of the air to overstate something''.

He supported other proposed restrictions, saying every hour counted when it came to reducing consumption and alcohol-related harm.

''Every hour you can get it back, the more harm you can avoid.''


Draconian times...

Excuse me, am I reading this right?

I've just spent the last 2 weeks in central London and I'm coming home to this? There are no liquour bans here, public transport until midnight, night buses and the bars don't close until 4am. Like Dunedin, where there is a concentration of bars there are always going to be problems, but in London there are lots of police "on the beat" in these areas. Leicester Square can be a bit daunting but it's usually drunken tourists that are the problem. In Dunedin, it's the locals in the Octagon!

Mind you, it would be a good thing to get pub entertainment started earlier. Here in London, most of the entertainment is between 7-11.30pm so people can get their last tube/bus/train home. Dunedin, however, is too small to make this a concern so people tend to party on!

I say, ban supermarkets from running loss leaders on alcohol! It's the pre-loading that's the problem, not the bars themselves, who tend to act reasonably responsibly. Why ruin a good night out for so many for the fault of a few!

Now for my last Saturday night in London!

Wrong targets - again

From my perspective there are two issues which need changing first - before we fiddle with opening hours.   Firstly, we need to restrict sales of super-cheap alcohol for people to consume, often well before they get anywhere near a bar.   I like the idea of a minimum cost per standard drink to stop this happening.

Secondly, how can people be in bars if they are drunk?   Any bar manager or staff member who serves alcohol to a drunk should immediately lose their licence and be closed - full stop.

I like the idea of going out with friends for a few drinks but that is quite different from going out to get written-off. It is currently illegal for a bar to serve me long before I get anywhere near that state.   If the police simply enforced the existing laws, bars could happily stay open all night.

Do the math.

That babysitter would cost $750 assuming they stayed for a full 24 hours afterwards... a small fraction of the thousands a well run bar makes in a night.

In the 80s...

When pubs used to close at 11pm people would either go home and sleep or go to someone’s house to party, not wander the streets as there was nothing open so what was the point. We used to have a couple of nightclubs open til late but they had a cover charge and most people would head off home. At the moment there are far too many drunk people on the streets, going from bar to bar causing trouble in between.

Can't see the forest for the trees

I beg you dear council to see common sense. No one dislikes drunk people. What people dislike is people who vomit and people who throw punches. And the solution to stopping those behaviors has nothing to do with alcohol, nor the bartender that served it. You need to pass policy that makes vomiting anywhere but the bathroom a spot fine, and people who throw punches drunk should be dealt with exactly the same as sober people who throw punches -"I was boozed" isn't a defence.

Bartenders are the saving grace of the drinker (and the community). My long and successful hospo career really boiled down to babysitting and counselling for the common person. When you stepped into the club, you were safe. Safe from others, safe from the stresses of living, safe from yourself. You could let down your hair, relax, talk nonsense and dance... all safe in the knowledge that while you're here there is me, and my team of well paid professionals looking after everything.

I no longer work in hospo - the risks are too high, and the thank yous have gone. So before you think you've got it sorted and a 1am door is going to make a scrap of difference I ask you to think like the average punter and ask yourself, if I can't get rowdy in town... what am I going to do? (For those of you who have no idea what the average drinker thinks, I've listed the answers below)
- I'm going to throw a party at home
- Instead of spending $400 in town, I'm going to spend $400 in a bottle store and shout all of my friends
- I'm going to turn my stereo way up and party till the sunrises... Ain't no bartender stopping me now!

If you think noise control and the police are going to be up to the challenge, then you need to do the math. Would you rather have 400 people in one place, with 15 paid professionals supervising or 40 people in 10 places with no one supervising? That's just one bar... Dunedin has 500ish on-licences.

So in conclusion dear council. Wake the heck up and stop with this embarrassment of a "solution". Legislate to stop the bad behaviour and stop with the moral judgement of others pass times. You can't stop the party, you can only decide whether it is run legally (and in a taxable fashion), or underground. [Abridged]

Drinking hours

The less drunks roaming the streets of Dunedin, at any hour, the better. If and when people serving alcohol and those consuming it will be responsible enough to avoid or minimise drunkness in public, the hours can be extended.

Back in the 80's

This will be the first time I agree with you speedfreak43.

Supermarkets are our biggest sellers of alcohol and it is time our councillors look at the impact this is having on our children. The govt made a bad decision 20 years ago to allow the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and now we have a chance to do something about it.

If they went down to A&E on any Friday or Saturday night they would see the impact supermarket sales are having on our community.

About time they put a stop to it.



Here comes the fun police!

Why is it always the minority that always kill it for the others.

Solution: 1am Lock-out (if you not in too bad), 3am close-up. It works everywhere else so why can't it work here.

And why should alcohol be stopped from being sold at supermakets, its only beer and wine. Why not concentrate more on the off-licence alcohol outlets in town that sell cheap pre-mixed drinks.



Wow, there goes your ailing hospitality industry. There are some serious problems with the backwards town I grew up in. I say backwards because of the simple-mindedness that is stopping any type of growth in the marketplace. Residents are whining about every little thing and trying to stop businesses making money or infrastructure improvements that would make people’s
lives better... the list just gets longer every time I come back to read the ODT.

I'll make the assumption this has come about as after the “intelligent” people decided to try and curb students going out and having a good time in the northern end of town that now they are flocking to the central and southern side and that has erred concerns of the older generation as they "no longer have a place to go and drink". Well hey, stop banning every proposal that goes in and maybe you won't need to have your bar packed to the rafters
with students looking to have a bit of fun.

The Dunedin macro economy is small enough as it is. You really do not need to have imposed curfews on bars there. Maybe using some more common sense with cutting people off from the bar/stopping service of drunks will result in a lovely little town again. Do not let some morons stuff up your hospitality industry Dunedinites, stand up for what is right!

At least I suggested a fix

Earl. Unlike yourself, who provided no solution and instead just knocked mine.

If patrons are going in 3 hours earlier, perhaps they will be filtering out earlier as bar staff start refusing service due to their level of intoxication.

There is one problem with your idea

Hype: Who is paying the wages of the baby sitters that are stuck at the bar until lunch or tea time when these drunks finally arise. Are these carers going to empty the wallets of the sleeping every hour to ensure they get paid for their service? And when do the cleaners get to do their job, especially if the bar reopens for lunch time service?

Welcome to 2014

If you shut the bars at midnight, don't you think that there's a small possibility that people will just head into town three hours earlier?

Your 'quick fix' is not a good idea at all and will just result in a much higher number drunken youths and young adults roaming the streets when the bars close at midnight, rather than letting them filter out till 3am. 

Times have changed and so has the nightlife culture of Dunedin. Going back to the stone age is only going to make things worse. 

No-close bars

Mr Scully says "bars ... were ''the safest place for young people to be''.  

The chasm in this argument is that they come out of the safe environment of bars liquored up to the tonsils.  My suggestion is that if bar owners want to keep serving alcohol till 4am they cannnot put the drinkers out on the street and let staff clean up and go home, but stay open, providing not alcohol but tea, coffee, soup, food, and mattresses. People who have drunk too much to be in control of themselves would be encouraged to sleep over till they are sober enough not to be risks to themselves or others.  "Just sleep here bro!"

Back in the 80s

I agree with the comments in this article, that the problem is supermarket sales. Back in the 80s there was little preloading, and when bars shut at 11pm, we would purchase takeaways from the bar/bottle store and venture to some ones place and contine there. Needed to be near at TV at 12 anyway as thats the time that "The Young ones" was on.

It also needs to be remembered that alcahol was a lot cheaper in those days, which negated the need to preload. Is it more expensive now due to higher tax or the need to pay staff wages for working all night?

So the fix is simple: 1) Stop supermarket sales 2)Shut the bars at midnight.

As it stands, people preload until 11pm or midnight then head to town because the cost of drinks at bars is too expensive and they know the bars are open until near daylight. Its not that hard to work it out. 

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