Laws could force booze display change

Marion Poore
Marion Poore
The days of prominent displays of alcohol near the entrance to two major Dunedin supermarkets may be numbered as health and licensing authorities oppose the renewal of their off-licences.

The outcome of the applications from Countdown Central, in Cumberland St, and Countdown Mailer St is likely to be closely followed as it might provide guidance on the application of new laws about layout of alcohol displays in supermarkets.

Public Health South medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore and liquor licensing inspector Tony Mole, with the support of police, have raised concerns about the applications to renew the two off-licences because they say the supermarkets are not meeting the purpose of sections of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 aiming to limit shoppers' exposure to alcohol.

Alcohol is displayed in plain view to the immediate right of shoppers as they enter Countdown Central.

Dr Poore said the alcohol aisle at the Countdown Mailer St was also in plain view as shoppers entered the store.

Mr Mole was also concerned snack foods, which might attract children, were displayed in the same aisle as alcohol at the Mailer St supermarket.

The matter will be considered by Dunedin's District Licensing Committee (DLC) on July 2.

DLC secretary Kevin Mechen said he expected the Dunedin case could attract attention because it involved two large supermarkets in a test of the new laws before draft local alcohol policies (LAP) in other areas were tested by appeals on similar issues.

It was always going to be up to a district licensing committee to make licence decisions, even when LAPs were in place, he noted. A LAP for Dunedin was still being drafted.

The two supermarkets were the first in Dunedin to be tested on the new law as their licences had come up for renewal first, Mr Mechen said.

The committee would need to consider whether the area nominated by the company for liquor displays met the criteria of the Act.

There was provision in the Act to renew a licence with a condition that displays be reconfigured to all parties' satisfaction within a nominated period up to 18 months.

Mr Mole suggested if displays of alcohol at the end of alcohol aisles at both stores were moved back into the aisles, that might make the alcohol areas less ''obvious''.

Dr Poore yesterday said she was still discussing the options with Countdown.

She would not be drawn on her preferred layout for alcohol displays in the stores until the hearing, but the Central Otago District Licensing Committee last month noted, when it renewed the off-licence of the Alexandra Four Square, that the Ministry of Health was seeking to have complete separation of alcohol from other products, even though the Act does not require it.

The Four Square had already moved its alcohol away from the store's entrance before applying to renew its off-licence.

A Countdown spokeswoman said at present there was no national guidance from the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority on how the new layout rules applied.

''It's therefore only natural that there will be some different points of view.

''It's now a matter for the [DLA] and we'll continue to work constructively with councils and other interested parties as we comply with the new law.''

There were several examples around the country where supermarket operators, including Countdown, were being queried on layout, which was expected, given the law was new and there was no national guidance yet, she said.


The law
The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (sections 112 to 114) stipulates a requirement for district licensing committees to place a condition on supermarket off-licences describing the area permitted for alcohol displays, the purpose of which is to ''limit (so far as is reasonably practicable) the exposure of shoppers in supermarkets and grocery stores to displays and promotions of alcohol, and advertisements for alcohol''.


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