'Totally worth it' as shops flout law

UK tourists (from left) Paul Larrett and Bill and Diane Petzold, pictured at Wanaka's Speight's...
UK tourists (from left) Paul Larrett and Bill and Diane Petzold, pictured at Wanaka's Speight's Ale House yesterday, were surprised by New Zealand's liquor laws, which restrict people from drinking on Good Friday unless dining. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
If inspectors from the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment were in Wanaka yesterday, almost every retailer in the resort will face fines for breaching Easter trading laws.

The threat of a $1000 penalty was not enough to deter the vast majority of Wanaka businesses from breaching the Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal Act 1990, which restricts most shops from opening on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Many retailers said they could not afford to be closed, particularly with the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow event bringing tens of thousands of extra visitors to town.

''It's one of the busiest weekends of the year and we need it,'' Soul Clothing owner Sally Gordon said.

''The quiet times are too quiet so we need to rely on this busy period ... people that come to town expect to be able to go shopping, go out for dinner, go for drinks. We're a destination place.''

Outside Sports Wanaka store manager Darren Grimmett said it was ''ridiculous'' stores in the resort were supposed to remain closed.

''Especially with so many visitors. It wouldn't be a great example for the town if everyone was shut.''

Cakes of Wanaka owner Clare Pennell said it had been ''totally worth it'' opening yesterday, and there had been a steady stream of foot traffic through her lakefront store.

Providing a service for the influx of visitors was Hamills Wanaka store owner Mark Sanders' reason for being open.

''It would be very disappointing to see the town like a ghost town when there's 30,000-plus people walking the streets with nowhere to go,'' he said.

Wanaka bars had more incentive to stick to the rules, as the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act provides far heftier penalties for non-compliance.

The Act prevents the sale of liquor to anyone on Good Friday and Easter Sunday unless they are dining and any breach can result in suspension or cancellation of the on-licence and general manager's certificate or a fine of up to $20,000.

''It's way too big a deal for us,'' Water Bar manager Elaine Quo Vadis said.

Kai Whakapai Cafe and Bar staff member Claire Stirling said many customers were baffled as to why they could not get a drink without dining in Wanaka but they could in Queenstown, which has an exemption to the trading restrictions.

''They just can't understand why it would be any different.''

Several bars reported potential patrons walking out because they were not prepared to pay for a meal just to get a drink.

At Wanaka's Speight's Ale House, UK tourists Paul Larrett and his parents Bill and Diane Petzold were surprised by New Zealand's alcohol laws.

''We don't have the same thing in the UK,'' Mrs Petzold said, as the trio finished off their nachos and a round of drinks.

''It's a surprise and we don't think it's right, but then, that's coming from a country that doesn't have it. It's just strange.''

Eight Wanaka bars had applications for special licences denied earlier this month.

Exemptions from shop trading restrictions apply to certain types of shops, including pharmacies, duty-free stores, service stations and real estate agencies.

Cafes, bars and restaurants are allowed to open as long as they sell only prepared or cooked food that is ready to be eaten immediately.

Also exempt are a limited number of other retailers in locations covered by area exemptions issued by the former Shop Trading Hours Commission, under the previous law, the Shop Trading Hours Act 1977.

''Ones that were in place at the time [of the new Act] still remain,'' a spokeswoman for the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment said.

That included nine shops in Wanaka's Pembroke Mall which were issued exemptions in June 1982.

The spokeswoman would not disclose the enforcement approach being used by the ministry's inspectors over Easter.

Last Easter there were just two prosecutions nationwide for breaching the law. Neither of those were in Wanaka.

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz


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