Liquor laws 'spanner in works' for Cook

Plans to revive Dunedin's best-known student watering hole could be hampered by proposed new liquor laws.

Greg Paterson, one of three directors of Orari Street Properties Investments Ltd, which owns the building, said the Dunedin City Council's proposed controls on bars had put a ''bit of a spanner in the works'' in their plans to revive the Captain Cook Tavern.

This comes as the council consults on its draft local alcohol policy, which includes introducing 3am closing times for bars (an hour earlier than the present closing time) and a one-way door policy starting at 1am.

Mr Paterson said the policy targeted bar owners, when the real problem came from cheap alcohol bought from off-licences.

''Instead of addressing the true issue, they have chosen to go out and beat up a whole lot of small businesses, who provide vitality and life to the town, and jobs.''

The effect the policy had on the Cook redevelopment would depend on whether the more draconian parts of the proposed policy remained.

If the final policy was particularly harsh, the company and its prospective tenant would have to take another look at the ''size and scope'' of the plans.

''Maybe we would be better pulling it down and building a supermarket and selling discount liquor en masse, to be consumed in completely uncontrolled environments and you don't have any compliance costs,'' Mr Paterson joked.

Rather than making it more difficult for bars - a lot of which were already ''very marginal'' - the council should be making it easier for them, as they provided a controlled environment.

''All the unsafe drinking is done out of discounted booze from supermarkets en masse.

''It's just so tragic for Dunedin, which needs all the vitality of those bars,'' he said.

He was unsure when building on the redeveloped Cook would start and he was not certain if it would re-open for next year's Orientation Week.

''We'd like to think we could, but we don't know that we can.''

Council liquor licensing co-ordinator Kevin Mechen stressed the policy was ''only a draft'' and the community was able to have its say before the council made a final decision.

The rules being proposed were similar to those being proposed in other parts of the country, Mr Mechen said.

The council had received about 20 submissions so far and opinions were mixed. Some called the policy ''nanny state'' and others said it did not go far enough.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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