Student drinkathon days numbered

Students line up outside the Captain Cook Tavern for a recent Cook-a-thon. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Students line up outside the Captain Cook Tavern for a recent Cook-a-thon. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Dunedin student bar promotions that appear to encourage excessive drinking will be "eliminated" by the start of next year, Dunedin District Licensing Authority inspector Tony Mole says.

Mr Mole has targeted such events as the Captain Cook Tavern's Cook-a-thon and the Bowling Green Tavern's tanker day.

This follows a "test hearing" of a promotion run by The Monkey Bar, in central Dunedin, which the Liquor Licensing Authority found was "completely lacking" in host responsibility, "unacceptable" and "irresponsible".

Mr Mole said the findings of the hearing, released this week, gave the licensing authority "great guidance for what is acceptable" in bar promotions and he would be speaking to Dunedin licensed premises about the ramifications.

The authority would now be able to consider the motivation behind a promotion, whether the advertising of a promotion was misleading, the suitability of the licensee to manage the promotion and the nature of the business and its customer base.

He hoped to be able to say before Orientation Week next year that there would be no events which promoted excessive drinking.

The Monkey Bar promotion, in July, offered up to 1000 free drinks each night for six nights during re-orientation week and $3 drinks from 8pm until midnight over the same period.

Manager Rob Dale said, in the released decision, the promotion enabled each patron to receive a free drink on entry, with a limit of one drink per person, an activity allowed under the Sale of Liquor Act.

He did not believe it encouraged excessive drinking.

However, in the finding, District Court Judge William Unwin said there was a "world of difference between a well-run licensed premises that offers a complimentary standard drink on arrival, and a student bar keen to attract customers away from its competition".

"The prospect of students lining up to get their free shot is quite unhealthy and, in our view, will inevitably lead to risky drinking in the long term."

Judge Unwin said the promotion was of a nature that would warrant an application to have the bar's licence suspended.

The bar was not sanctioned because the bar and the licensing authority agreed beforehand clarification was needed on the issue.

The Cook-a-thon, a Captain Cook Tavern event at which about 500 students indulge in a day of drinking, has grown in status among students in the past few years.

In July, one of the bar's owners, Richard McLeod, said the Cook-a-thon had become a victim of its own success. Mr Mole said the licensing authority was looking to work with the owners of the tavern to "get rid" of the promotion.

The bar's licence was up for renewal and several objections had been received from the public, mainly relating to the Cook-a-thon.

Mr McLeod said, when contacted yesterday, he could not comment because of the licence renewal process.

The Bowler's tanker day, also run in Orientation Week, catered to a different crowd, bar owner Mark Deason said.

He was unaware of Mr Mole's plans to do away with his promotion, but said it was "just one of many things happening" in the alcohol industry.

"They want young people to behave themselves, but the liquor licensing authority and police have driven people out of bars and into the streets."

That situation was only going to get worse if the authority continued to get rid of alcohol promotions.

"They will do what they do, and good luck to them. It will be interesting in five to 10 years when this whole country is sober. I will be sitting on an island in Australia, pointing and laughing, glad I got the last plane out of here."

sarah.harvey@odt.co.nz

 

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