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Inner city Dunedin bars are set to find out today if they can open until 3am on Christmas Day, a matter police have opposed for the first time.
The bars include the Metro in Lower Stuart St, which, it emerged at a hearing yesterday, is facing a Liquor Licensing Authority hearing next year that may result in licence suspension.
A Dunedin City Council hearings committee of Crs Colin Weatherall, Lee Vandervis and Andrew Noone yesterday heard applications for later opening from Pop, the 10Bar, Craft Bar, Ratbags, Di Lusso, Barakah and Southern Break.
The application from Metro was heard separately.
For the past few years, bars have been able to open until 3am on "sacrosanct" days of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Anzac Day, with the ability to do so viewed as acceptable under council policy.
But police this year opposed the move.
Southern Break manager Yassine Al-Kaissi told the hearing the period was an important time for people in the hospitality industry to meet after they had finished work, and some without family to celebrate Christmas with needed somewhere to go.
Asked by Cr Weatherall why the committee should allow the bars to break the rules for the sacrosanct days, he said while he understood the importance of Christmas, "over time, things change".
Dunedin liquor licensing Constable Neil Kettings said senior sergeants in Dunedin were wondering why staff had to work on the sacrosanct days to deal with early morning drinkers.
The only practical way to deal with the issue was through a law change, rather than not respecting the law, he said.
Asked by Cr Vandervis why the issue was being "brought to the fore" now, Const Kettings said attitudes to alcohol-related harm were changing.
"Now is the time for police to show what our stance is on those days. It's the law and it should be respected."
Metro owner Robert Dale told the hearing he wanted later opening on Christmas morning to deal with the problem of people leaving all at once, at a time with few taxis.
Metro's application was also opposed by police, and Const Kettings said, in his letter of response to the application, ongoing problems police had encountered during the year offered "no encouragement at all that they [licensee and manager] are suitable in the running of a licensed premises".
Police have applied for a suspension of the bar's licence. A hearing expected in late January.