Students fear for 'vibrant' nightlife

The Otago University Students' Association says proposed new alcohol laws could put students off coming to Dunedin by damaging the city's vibrant nightlife.

The Dunedin City Council is consulting on its draft local alcohol policy, which suggests bars should close at 3am (an hour earlier than the present closing time) and that there should be a 1am start to the city one-way door policy.

The draft policy, aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm, also proposes banning the sale of shots of alcohol after midnight and that bars' outdoor seating areas, on public footpaths, be cleared of drinkers from as early as 11pm.

The OUSA says the policy, if adopted, rather than minimising alcohol-related harm, will increase unsafe drinking behaviour.

This was because the restrictions would mean students, instead of drinking in bars, would be more likely to buy cheap alcohol from off-licences and drink it at flats which, unlike bars, were unregulated.

The OUSA agreed on its opposition to the policy at an executive meeting last month.

The students organisation was also worried about the impact the policy could have on the city's ''vibrant'' social scene, which helped attract students to the city.

''Dunedin night life, which bars form an important part of, is enjoyed by many students and local residents. Students often choose to attend Otago University due to Dunedin's vibrant and diverse social scene,'' it said in a statement.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times last week, OUSA finance officer Paul Hunt said student bars, including the Captain Cook Tavern, Monkey Bar and Gardens Tavern, had already been lost. The OUSA was worried the proposed policy could force more to close.

''The more [Dunedin's nightlife is] chopped away at bit by bit, the more Otago loses that particular point of difference,'' he said.

He was keen to point out the major reason OUSA opposed the proposed changes was student safety.

''The main reason we are opposed to the bulk of the proposals is because as a whole they tend to discourage alcohol consumption in bars and force it into less safe environments,'' he said.

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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