Opposition to bar changes growing

Octagon bar Ratbags staff Laura Dowling (22) and Jared Hewitt (20) wear ''Save Dunedin's...
Octagon bar Ratbags staff Laura Dowling (22) and Jared Hewitt (20) wear ''Save Dunedin's Nightlife'' T-shirts as part of a campaign against proposed changes to Dunedin's alcohol laws. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
The Dunedin City Council has a fight on its hands over proposed changes to the city's alcohol laws, with more than 4000 supporting a campaign opposing them.

The group, ''Save Dunedin's Nightlife'', set up by members of the city's bar industry three weeks ago, had 4417 likes on Facebook yesterday afternoon.

This comes as the council consults on its draft local alcohol policy, which includes introducing 3am closing times for bars (an hour earlier than at present), a one-way door policy starting at 1am and forcing bars to close outside areas as early as 11pm.

Campaign spokesman and Dunedin Hospitality Ltd (Mac's Brew Bar) director Richard Newcombe said the response to the page showed the council had ''underestimated'' the level of concern about the issue.

The campaign was about making people aware how damaging the proposed changes would be to the city's nightlife and encouraging people to share their opinions with council, Mr Newcombe said.

More than 2000 people had filled in a submission survey, set up as part of the campaign. All responses would be forwarded to the council as part of its consultation process.

People were concerned the changes would force many Dunedin bars to close - which Mr Newcombe said was a certainty if the policy went through unchanged.

''[The policy] shouldn't be based on some sort of wowsers' belief that closing bars early is going to fix alcohol-related harm problems. There is a strong argument to suggest that the opposite will happen.''

Dunedin bars had commissioned Inside Economics to carry out an independent report on the impact of the proposed changes.

Council liquor licensing and projects officer Kevin Mechen said the policy was just a draft and the council would consider changes based on submissions.

However, those opposed to the draft needed to come up with alternative ways of reducing alcohol-related harm.

This was because the policy was prepared to fulfil the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, which was aimed at minimising harm, Mr Mechen said.

Overseas research suggested claims many of Dunedin's bars would close, if the draft policy passed unchanged, were an ''overreaction'', he said.

The council had received about 280 submissions on the proposed changes so far. Its consultation period runs until October 10 and will be followed by a public hearing.


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