Early close for local bars?


Nelson’s nightclubs could be forced to close earlier than they do now once a new district licensing committee is established.
Nelson City Council is drafting a new Local Alcohol Policy which gives local councils the power to enforce changes under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, that was passed by parliament last year. The new committee will make liquor licensing decisions which may include the location, number and maximum trading hours of licensed premises.
A survey that closed today sought the views from the community but a local nightclub owner is concerned it puts too much power in the hands of a few and businesses like his are the wrong target. “We do everything right, pay security staff to keep people safe so they have a good time and enjoy themselves. We don’t serve drunks or under-agers and yet we are the ones they target,” says Little Rock owner Ron Taylor. “Closing the bars earlier or having a one way door policy is a bad idea. It will just push drinking into suburban house parties. Here it’s controlled and contained. Do you go after a car salesmen because people speed and drive drunk? No.”
The draft policy is in the discussion stage and will have input from police, Hospitality Association of New Zealand, ACC, the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and others. Once the draft has been completed it will go out for public consultation before the policy is confirmed.
Ron says continually imposing restrictions on bar owners is over-the-top and he feels programmes they’ve introduced voluntarily – like Mellow Yellow – are having a positive impact.
“It definitely concerns me when I have a business and someone else tells me how to run it. It would be one of the only businesses that has this much regulation, penalties and restrictions on it.
“No one grabs the punter and pours the stuff down their throat, so they have to take responsibility for themself but they still want to put restrictions on us.”
Alcohol harm reduction officer Steve Savage says the policy is a good idea and the prospect of a one-way door policy will be discussed. “It’s a chance for us to get some sensible things in place and reduce the harm of alcohol. Exactly what is going to be put in and how it will be implemented is yet to be seen. I think a one way door policy would negate the need for earlier closing times, it’s a good tool but probably one that will create a lot of discussion, especially with the licensees.”
Ron hopes the policy doesn’t turn Nelson into a “boring” or “dull” city and encourages people to have a good time. “If they’re fair and want it to work for their city, then great. Nelson has always had its bars in one place and people walk around and go to the different bars with their different themes. We’ve got pool halls, Irish bars, all sorts, and its good, you’ve got the choice. If the one-way door policy comes in it takes that away,” he says.
The first meeting for the policy is to be held this week.