Thursday, February 05, 2015

She's crafty

Auckland Council's local alcohol policy (LAP) was debated in the latter part of last year, with public submissions being heard in Sept/Oct.

According to the timeline on the Council's website, the policy was to be adopted early this year, following appeals. That will most likely be delayed to mid-year, as they assess the impact of this development in Wellington....

In their latest email newsletter, Wellington's Beer Without Borders reports that Wellington City Council's own LAP policy had been rejected by central government officials....

"Two recent decisions relating to liquor licensing in Wellington have set precedents that we believe should cause alarm....

... First came this bombshell – that the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority had rejected the Wellington City Council’s Local Alcohol Policy.

The Authority agreed with the Police that the LAP that Wellington had settled on (after an excruciating consultation process) wasn’t sufficiently in tune with the objectives of the 2012 Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. Those objectives were, essentially, to “minimise” harm caused by “excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol”. [Wellington City Council also wanted a 5am closing time, beyond the legislated 4am closing, as they felt it was important in creating a "dynamic central city". Source]

In other words, the power vested in local councils to customise alcohol policy may only be used for the purposes of piling additional obstacles in the way of vendors and consumers of alcohol. The moment a council’s policy is tempered with some kind of allowance for the customs of their own city then it is deemed invalid. So the right to develop a Local Alcohol Policy is really a “Claytons” devolution of power.

Then, a few days later, came this story, that a bottle store that’s about to open in Wellington has struck a deal with various authorities (i.e. Police and Health) who might otherwise have opposed their licence, with the effect that they will only serve certain drinks.

Naturally we snigger at the idea that this store and/or the police might get to decide what constitutes “craft beer” or “premium beer” [the bottle store owner tried to argue that he could sell Heineken as it was a premium drop, but Stephen Palmer, the Medical Officer of Health said it was closer to Tui than craft beer. Clearly Palmer knows more about beer than that bottle store owner ].

But apart from that, one might imagine that we would applaud this outcome, since we’re distributors of beer that would probably remain on sale under this arrangement, and given that this arrangement appears to have been entered into willingly by all parties. But it’s actually an alarming precedent.

It enforces the idea that rules might be applied differently to different categories of alcoholic beverage, and, by extension, different drinkers. In other words it’s a kind of discrimination.

It assumes that consumers of RTDs need to have their consumption kept in check, but consumers of certain other beverages can just have at it. While many will see this as a good outcome, it doesn’t belong in the regulations under which we run our cities. And the logical extensions are frightening. Yet if rules like this become common, then vendors will adapt the way their products are packaged to obscure the differences between them and consumers will simply adapt their buying practices..."

More: Tell the new prohibitionists: dancing is good for you! (Aug 2014)

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