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Quest for more flexible hours to sell alcohol

Making licensing hours too rigid will drive drinkers underground, long-standing Bushmere Arms proprietor Robin Pierson told the Gisborne District Licensing Committee.

Mr Pierson was making a plea for flexibility in his application for licensing hours that were outside the limits of the Gisborne alcohol policy.

But he was told by committee chairwoman Pat Seymour the committee was obliged to adhere to the hours in the local alcohol policy.

The committee has reserved its decision on an application for renewal of the on-licence and off-licence hours for the restaurant and bar.

Mr Pierson sought an on-licence for the premises from 8 am to 3 am and an off-licence from 9 am to 11pm from Monday to Sunday. Both are greater than the LAP closing hours of 9pm for an off-licence and 2am for an on-licence.

The application was opposed by the police and medical officer of health.

Mrs Seymour said the committee had heard Mr Pierson’s plea for flexibility in things like being able to open at 8am for special events but the committee was constrained by the regulations within the local alcohol policy.

“I appreciate that is a frustration to you but our hands are tied to a degree,” she said.

“It would be unfair of me to have you leave the room today thinking that we can give you the hours that you sought.

“That is absolutely no reflection on your business and I am sorry that the Sale of Liquor Act does not allow us the complete flexibility that you might be seeking.”

Mr Pierson said he had been involved in licensing for a very long time.

What he found very frustrating was that the authorities were convinced that regulations were effective but until you could educate people and get an attitude change, you were “going nowhere".

People were not going to travel to the Bushmere Arms because they had longer trading hours.

“The bottom line is that if they want alcohol they will get it, because in restricting hours all you are doing is driving it underground and sheds around the town will start opening up again.”

A classic example of this was smoking, where everyone was patting themselves on the back for reducing smoking but in the process they had created a crime wave where every dairy owner was scared every day.

Restricting sales of alcohol wholesale hours would not work.

“If they want alcohol, they will get it anywhere and if they can’t get alcohol, they will get drugs.”

Earlier in the hearing, Mr Pierson questioned the need for the same regulations to apply to everybody, asking why people should all wear grey suits and drive the same colour car.

“This is not a communist state.”