Bars lose closing time fight

A legal challenge against the Queenstown Lakes District Council's blanket 4am closing time for bars has failed.

But the appellants may take the matter to the Supreme Court.

President of the Court of Appeal Justice William Young, Justice Susan Glazebrook and Justice Robert Chambers heard an appeal brought by My Noodle Ltd (Sky Bar), Central Otago Breweries Ltd (Harry's Pool Bar), Chuck Norris Ltd (Minibar) and Barmuda Ltd at a one-day hearing in Wellington on October 21.

The group's legal challenge was to the decision of the Liquor Licensing Authority to uphold the liquor policy, introduced by the council last year, which restricted 24-hour trading for licensed premises.

The Court of Appeal released its decision last night.

The council agreed to permit 24-hour trading in the Queenstown CBD in 1999.

A closing time of 2.30am was established for all other areas in the district.

In 2006, the policy was reviewed.

The council received 401 submissions, 93% of which supported 24-hour trading.

The police and Public Health South backed a blanket closing time of 2.30am.

The new policy, a 21-hour trading period from 7am to 4am, was a compromise between community and agencies' concerns and the desire of licensees to provide later trading hours in an international tourist resort.

The Court of Appeal's decision said "common ground" was that there were "no problems with the way any of the appellants were operating their respective premises".

The Court of Appeal's decision also noted views that extensive research showed a link between trading hours and alcohol abuse.

Russell Gray, a spokesman for the appellants, last night said he had not seen the decision, and appellants would decide on a further appeal once that had been done.

Mr Gray said the group's biggest issue was whether there was a direct correlation between trading hours for licensed premises and drinking "issues".

"We don't think there is. We think it's all about being good, responsible operators."

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Clive Geddes welcomed the Court of Appeal decision.

"Obviously, the council and the Liquor Licensing Authority are very pleased to receive such clear direction from the Court of Appeal as to what our roles are.

We look forward to continuing to be able to work with the licensee community to improve the way the issues [are dealt with] in Queenstown."

The Court of Appeal ordered the appellants to pay costs to the council.


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