New alcohol rules easy to swallow

Moves to tighten up Dunedin's alcohol regulations have drawn little protest from inner-city bar owners, but supermarket representatives are not commenting yet.

The changes, announced in the Dunedin City Council's provisional local alcohol policy (Lap), included cutting hours of sale in supermarkets and off-licence retailers to 9am-9pm from the current 7am-11pm.

It also imposed a 3am closing time for inner-city bars and 4am closing time for ''genuine'' entertainment venues, but extended a proposed 1am one-way door policy to 2.30am.

A proposal to ban the sale of shots after midnight was also scrapped.

Dunedin Inner City Licensee Forum spokesman Richard Newcombe said the changes reflected a good balance.

''It's obviously a big change from where they were at [with the draft proposal].

''Obviously, the councillors that were on the [hearings] committee have listened to the members and reflected on their concerns. It looks like a good compromise.''

However, Mr Newcombe warned of the drawbacks of a blanket closing time for bars.

''There could be transport or crowding issues if everyone's coming out of bars and waiting for a taxi at the same time.

''Research has indicated that is when most problems occur.''

Mr Newcombe said the two bars he owned - Stuart St Mac's Brew Bar and Di Lusso - had been ''a little hard done by'' with the 3am closing rule.

''There will be a negative financial impact but it is far less than it would have been under the original plans.''

The changes would most likely not be opposed by the forum.

''We'd have to meet first to discuss that but, from my personal perspective, I don't think it will be.''

Countdown national communications and public affairs manager James Walker said he was not prepared to comment on the changes yet.

''Because of the process to go through, I don't think it would be helpful [to comment].

''We plan to review the documents through the correct channels, within the rules and in a constructive way.''

OUSA president Paul Hunt said he was happy with the changes.

The association's primary concern was maximising the time people spent in bars as opposed to ''pre-loading'' at home, he said.

''We're particularly pleased the one-way door policy has been ditched - or put back significantly.

''We were concerned that would encourage people to flat hop rather than bar hop, so we thank the council for listening to our concerns around that area.''

There remained some bigger concerns that needed to be looked at, though, he said.

''The bigger issue is the price disparity between the price of drinks at supermarkets and the price of drinks at bars.

''There are ways bars could be more accessible and affordable to students,'' Mr Hunt said.

Those included having more bars in the student area, addressing the current minimum drinks price and looking at the ''general attractiveness'' of bars, including entertainment.

''But we are largely thankful to the council for taking on board our submissions,'' Mr Hunt said.

The policy will be considered by councillors next week.

damian.george@odt.co.nz

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