Confusion over Coast race alcohol rules

There were heavy alcohol restrictions placed on patrons and families at the Omoto Races on Sunday...
There were heavy alcohol restrictions placed on patrons and families at the Omoto Races on Sunday. Photo: Greymouth Star
Inconsistencies in liquor laws imposed on West Coast racing clubs is causing confusion.

The Greymouth Jockey Club came under fire for heavy restrictions placed on patrons and families at the Omoto Races on Sunday.

The club had to ensure only adults entered the bar and did not take their drinks out the door, while those on the rest of the racecourse could bring their own alcohol and drink it where they liked.

Some people left because of the restrictions.

As part of its licence, the club was told to have certified security guards manning all doors of the lower floor of the grandstand to prevent patrons bringing liquor in or out of the bar. Checks on the ages of family members were also carried out.

Nearby, patrons on course happily consumed alcohol from tents or gazebos without restriction.

Club president Jill Bennington said it was confusing for some patrons.

"We came under criticism from some patrons for the restrictions but when explained it was not our doing but the local liquor licensing, which is the Grey District Council, Crown Public Health and police, they eventually understood," Ms Bennington said.

"Our club had heavy restrictions imposed but the laws are different for the other clubs. There is an inconsistency and I was told people actually left the course with their families because of the situation."

The liquor licence for Omoto is administered by the Grey District Council, while the Buller District Council covers Reefton and Westport races, and the Westland District Council grants the licences for Kumara and Hokitika.

"The Greymouth Jockey Club wanted a special licence, which allowed the area to extend out the front of the grandstand, but after discussion they settled for the restricted area under the grandstand," Grey District Council chief licensing inspector John Canning said.

"The area has five entrances to it and last year the duty manager got in a bit of strife, so we suggested they put security on the restricted licensed area. Because of a restricted licence people under 18 are not allowed into the bar.

"If the Greymouth club operated with a supervised licence, a person under 18, as long as they were with a parent or legal guardian, would be entitled to enter the bar -- if the Greymouth Jockey Club had applied for that licence I would have had no problem with that."

While BYO rules operated for the wider area, if the club had applied for an on-licence for the day then racegoers would not have been allowed to take alcohol on-course as BYO and would only have the option of buying alcohol provided on-course, Mr Canning said.

Westland Racing Club president Gray Eatwell said the Hokitika Races next Tuesday would also have liquor licensing rules in place but with more flexibility than at Greymouth.

"We have a good working relationship with the police and want to be compliant but don't want to be crushed," Mr Eatwell said.

"We will have people on the doors of the bar and there is a restriction for people under 18 years of age. There will be a fenced off area outside the bar in front of the grandstand where people can drink alcohol and watch the races, and a section of the grandstand available as well where drinking is permitted."

This Saturday, the Kumara Racing Club will operate the same liquor licence it had for its abandoned Gold Nuggets meeting last year with the usual mixture of BYO and bar sales.

"There will be BYO but the bar facilities which cover the General Gilbert and the Sailing Home bar under the grandstand will have a restricted licence," club president Patrick Meates said.

"We will pay up to 15 certified security guards from Christchurch to be on-course on Saturday, which is an added cost to us.

They will ensure no people under the age of 18 are in the bars and they will also be on the gate to ensure people entering the course are not intoxicated."

The Reefton Jockey Club race meeting yesterday was to run a special liquor licence as usual.

"We will carry on as we have done in the past with a special licence, which is supervised. Every council is different but we will run it just as we always have," secretary Colin Stevenson said.

- By Paul McBride

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