'Draft alcohol policy could cost jobs' - retailers say

Supermarkets and retailers say a draft local alcohol policy for Dunedin could cost jobs.

They were among a parade of alcohol industry players who appeared before the Dunedin City Council panel yesterday, the fifth day of hearings on the plan.

Foodstuffs SI Ltd, Superliquor and the New Zealand Retailers Association told the panel there was no strong evidence ''at all'' that selling alcohol from off-licences between 10pm and 11pm was contributing to alcohol-related harm.

Most existing evidence related to the link between harm and on-licences.

Despite that, Foodstuffs SI backed a proposed reduction in alcohol sale hours from 11pm to 10pm at Dunedin off-licences, because there were no plans to have stores in the area open after 10pm anyway, its retail brands manager Tim Donaldson said.

But it would not support any further restrictions.

Alcohol was key to the way people shopped and changing the hours it was available, while unlikely to affect business overall because people would just alter the times they shopped, could have unintended consequences.

That included inconveniencing people; as people shopped at different times some hours of the day could become non-viable for operators, potentially leading to the loss of some jobs.

Asked whether he thought it was healthy that supermarkets could sell alcohol cheaper than bar owners said they could buy it from suppliers, Mr Donaldson said he was not sure if it was healthy or unhealthy, but that was the nature of business.

''We are able to buy and sell in a competitive nature.''

Greg Harford, of the retailers association, said it did not support any reduction of hours.

It preferred authorities to wait until the impact on harm of national default trading hours introduced last December was properly reviewed.

Mayor Dave Cull pointed out Dunedin's alcohol-related harm was still among the highest in the country and that a succession of on-licence operators maintained the harm mostly came from the alcohol bought at off licences.

''But people will still buy from off licences; the issue is the unintentional impact hour restrictions will have on customer choice and potentially employment,'' Mr Harford responded.

Asked by Cr Jinty MacTavish if he was advocating for consumers, or retailers, he said happy and satisfied communities were important to the association's members.

The councillor said she was not too comfortable making a decision based on ''second-hand anecdotal evidence of consumer choice'' and would ''really appreciate'' any evidence the association could provide of whether customers would change shopping habits based on the hours alcohol was available.

Dunedin publicans and nightclub operators Phil Ellis, Stephen Hannaghan and John Devereux said the draft Lap unfairly restricted on-licences, when the focus needed to be more on supermarkets and personal responsibility.

Restricting supermarket sales after 10pm would ''not make one scrap of difference'', Mr Devereux said.

People would just buy their alcohol earlier because it was cheap and amounts were not restricted, but they would not come into town earlier, which combined with the proposed earlier blanket closing time of 3am would eventually make some bars non-viable, he said.

Though some premises sometimes used a one-way door 30 minutes before closing times, the licensees said imposing one at 1am would create a ''lock-in mentality'', that together with the ''guaranteed circus'' in the town centre at 3am, would be contrary to reducing alcohol-related harm.

Removing use of public spaces after 11pm would make the Octagon area ''look dead'' and create problems for bars in terms of table and chair storage until closing time, the licensees said.

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