29 May 2015

Bar owners say new rules would force lay-offs

10:14 am on 29 May 2015

Christchurch's bars will have to lay off staff if they're forced to close early as part of stricter licensing rules, owners say.

Line up of drinks on bar

Photo: RNZ / Megan Whelan

The Local Alcohol Policy took another step towards becoming a reality yesterday, when the Christchurch City Council voted unanimously to publicly notify it.

The rules propose forcing bars to close at 3am and nightclubs at 4am, but only for those within the CBD.

Pubs in the suburbs would have to close at 1am.

An owner of three suburban bars, Max Bremner, said this would lead to job losses amongst the 150 staff he employs.

"That's fine, I'll just shut my doors and everybody will lose their jobs, and that's the way it is, if that's what the council want. It is the most ridiculous decision I've ever seen. There is no reason for pulling these hours back."

He said the city was struggling to attract tourists as it was, and the new rules would be the nail in the coffin.

"I couldn't be bothered existing and building more stuff in this town and creating more jobs.

"These backpackers I'm building on Bealey Ave, there's 300 beds, you know - they want to come into town and have a good time, and at the moment, Victoria Street, St Asaph St and Lincoln Road are the places to come. I can't understand it."

An owner of two suburban bars, Danny Valentine, said he would have to lay off half of his 36 employees if he was forced to close at 1am.

He said allowing central city bars to stay open later than those in the suburbs will draw people away from his establishments much earlier than one in the morning, which would reduce his income dramatically.

"It will create this mentality that, okay, it's 11.30pm and this bar shuts at 1am, and therefore we need to think about moving on, so you'll have a mass exodus out of those bars and into the inner city."

He said thanks to the earthquakes there were very few bars in the CBD at present and this could create a massive headache for the police.

"Taxis won't be able to keep up. The queues that will go into the handful of places in the inner city will become massive, and very hard to control and police."

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said the policy was flexible in terms of when it could be introduced and agreed on the need to stage its implementation.

"There is little point in imposing the rules immediately. We need to stage it so that property owners have the opportunity to develop their premises.

"But we should not be saying, 'oh well, because they exist in these places, we should let them continue to exist there'."

He said when a similar policy was introduced in Newcastle in Australia, bar owners found they were able to increase profits by bringing people into town earlier in the evening.

"They have 50 percent more bars than they had before, they have less arrests, they have less presentations to their emergency department and they have a more profitable hospitality industry.

"Chasing the drunken dollar at three in the morning is not the way to run a bar."

Bar owners have one more chance to change the rules by appealing to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority, which is chaired by a district court judge.

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