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
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
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
The draft policy has been developed with input from
councillors, police, health authorities and hospitality
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
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
''Every hour you can get it back, the more harm you can