Special licence bid 'contrived'

Marion Poore
Marion Poore
A Dunedin bar that has applied for a special licence to hold a fundraiser for Christchurch earthquake victims between midnight and 3am on Easter Sunday has contrived the event so the bar can trade on a sacrosanct day, police say.

Southern Break manager Yassine Al-Kaissi spoke to the application at a Dunedin District Licensing Agency committee hearing in Dunedin yesterday.

The committee - Dunedin city councillors Colin Weatherall, Andrew Noone and Paul Hudson - was hearing applications from 12 central Dunedin bars wanting to trade in the early hours of Good Friday and/or Easter Sunday this year.

Acting alcohol harm reduction officer Senior Constable Ian Paulin told the hearing police fully supported holding a fundraiser for earthquake victims, but saw this application as "somewhat contrived".

Police and Public Health South opposed the application, saying they believed the fundraiser could be held at any other time.

Among other reasons, they were also concerned the fundraiser, a $1 donation per drink, could promote the excessive consumption of alcohol.

Mr Al-Kaissi said the bar could not hold the fundraiser any other night and had to hold it between those hours as it was a nightclub and those were its busiest times, and that it would be a ticketed and controlled event.

He conceded the event was "a different approach [to extending its trading hours at Easter] ...instead of fighting for the sacrosanct days".

The committee is expected to issue its decision on Monday on whether it will allow Southern Break and 11 other central Dunedin bars to trade on Good Friday and/or Easter Sunday.

Craft bar, 10 Bar, Ratbags, Pop, Carousel, Ra Cafe and Bar, The Craic, Crofters, Valley Lodge Hotel and Monkey Bar all applied for special licences to operate from 12.01am to 3am on April 22 and 12.01am to 3am on April 24.

Metro bar applied to trade until 5am, its usual operating hours, although new proprietor Ben Hansen said he was only seeking extended hours to 3am, in line with the other bars.

The Sale of Liquor Act states hotels and taverns should not open on the three and a-half "sacrosanct" days of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and before 1pm on Anzac Day.

The Act allows district licensing agencies to determine applications for special licences, and the Dunedin City Council's sale of liquor policy states special licences will be automatically granted to allow premises to stay open until 3am, or their licensed closing time, on those days.

Up to Christmas last year, hotels and bars in Dunedin were generally granted special licences to trade on these days.

However, last year police national policy changed to oppose all special licences on the sacrosanct days and the council agreed to a compromise - allowing bars to trade until 1.30am on Christmas Day.

Snr Const Paulin said police opposed all the Easter applications.

Public Health South also opposed the applications because they went against the legislation, Dr Marion Poore said.

Declining the applications would also give hospital workers "a break" from coping with drunks and reduce pressure on the health system, she said.

Representatives of the bars told the committee they favoured the status quo.

These nights were popular with patrons and for many years, Dunedin bars had operated on these two days without any particular issues, they said.

If the bars were forced to close at midnight, patrons would all be forced on to the street at the same time, and the city did not have the infrastructure to cope.

If they were allowed to stay open to 3am, many patrons would slowly dwindle over that last three-hour period, and bars could operate one-way door policies after a certain time.

The committee considered the applications in a publicly excluded session.

Chairman Cr Weatherall indicated the committee would have a decision by Monday.

Applicants have the right to appeal any decision of the Dunedin District Licensing Agency to the Liquor Licensing Authority.



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