New Christchurch Local Alcohol Policy Set to Shape Liquor Licensing

5 Jun 13

The Christchurch City Council has adopted its draft Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (“the Act”).

The adoption of the LAP, whether in its current or amended form, will inevitably result in a significant increase in compliance costs for any businesses intending to, or already operating in, the alcohol industry.

The LAP will have unintended consequences for businesses that potentially impact on their viability. A licence can no longer be seen as a right, but a privilege and one that can be taken away relatively easily. The LAP will allow the community to have a much greater say in licensing and will shape the liquor licensing regime in Christchurch for years to come.

The Christchurch District Licensing Committee (“the Committee”) will be required to consider the LAP on every new application and every renewal application for any liquor licence. There will be no requirement on the Council to review and consult on the LAP for a further six years.

Consultation is scheduled to occur from 31 May 2013 until 1 July 2013. Submissions must be made within this period if businesses want to have a say and influence the direction of the LAP.

The Draft LAP
The LAP allows the Council to address the following key licensing matters:

  • Location of licences in particular areas or near certain types of facilities
  • The density of licences in a particular area
  • Discretionary conditions on groups of licences, such as one-way door restrictions
  • The restriction of the default maximum opening hours set out in the new legislation, which are 8am to 4am for on-licences and 7am to 11pm for off-licences.

And that is exactly what the Council has resolved to do.

Location of premises – proximity to facilities
The Council has decided that there should be no specific restrictions. The Committee will therefore determine any applications based on the criteria under the Act, taking into account effects on the amenity and good order of the locality before issuing or renewing any licence.

The rationale is that any restriction on the location of premises may lead to unintended and undesirable consequences, such as a cluster of licenced premises located just outside an area where they are not permitted.

Density of premises
The Council has again resolved to maintain the status quo and will rely on the default criteria set out in the Act. The Council considers that there is insufficient evidence to justify any restrictions on the density of licenced premises within a particular geographical area.

Location of premises – by broad areas
The Council has however introduced some local restrictions on the location of licenced premises. From the date the LAP comes into force, there will be no more licences issued to bottle stores and taverns unless they are located on land zoned “business” or the “town centre”.

Trading hours for off-licence premises
The most significant proposal under the LAP is to amend the hours for both on and off-licences.

Currently the hours for off-licences are 7am to 11pm, set by default under the Act.

The Council has resolved that the draft LAP will require all off-licences to cease trading at 9pm and only open from 9am. There is no distinction between supermarkets, bottle stores and/or grocery stores. There is a perception that alcohol-related harm arises from the drinking of alcohol purchased from off-licence premises in uncontrolled environments.

So, this means that every business currently trading in excess of these hours will be required to comply if the LAP is implemented when their licence comes up for renewal.

Trading hours for on-licence premises
The current default trading hours are 8am to 4am.

The LAP proposes that on-licence premises within the central city entertainment precincts (excluding Victoria Street) will have maximum trading hours of 8am to 3am with a mandatory one-way door policy from 1am.

Suburban premises and those elsewhere in the central city precinct, including Victoria Street, must close at 1am and there will be a discretionary one-way door policy if appropriate.

The Council’s logic behind this proposal is to “seek an appropriate balance between providing for the social and economic benefits of a late night economy in the central city while addressing some aspects of alcohol-related harm, including the significant increase in alcohol-related injury, crime and disorder associated with the late night consumption of alcohol.”

Discretionary conditions
Unsurprisingly, the LAP also provides for more specific local restrictions. This will effectively allow the Committee to require discretionary conditions as part of any renewed or new licence, such as:

  • The requirement for additional security staff after certain hours
  • The installation and operation of CCTV cameras both on the exterior and within the licensed premises
  • The provision of effective and well lit exterior lighting
  • The restrictions on the size of orders (i.e. “doubles”) as well as the time of “last order”
  • The control and management of patrons queuing to enter the licenced premises
  • Restrictions on the use of outdoor areas after certain hours
  • One-way door restrictions
  • Where a new licence is granted the trading hours may be more restrictive than the maximum trading hours in the LAP
  • That no unaccompanied minors may enter bottle stores
  • The requirement for the display of safe drinking messages

If you want to make a submission or have any questions relating to the draft LAP please contact Malcolm Couling or Alex Booker.

PDF version: New Christchurch Local Alcohol Policy Set to Shape Liquor Licensing