Don Kavanagh is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

Don Kavanagh: Talk to the wall again


Don Kavanagh questions the logic in ruling out one-bottle alcohol sales.

There's no problem for bulk buyers, but try to purchase one bottle and you run into problems. Photo / Emma Geraghty
There's no problem for bulk buyers, but try to purchase one bottle and you run into problems. Photo / Emma Geraghty

There is an old story about an American politician visiting Jerusalem. He meets an old man who has gone to the Wailing Wall every day for 40 years to pray for peace in the world and he asks him: "So what's it like to come and pray here every day for 40 years?"

And the old man replied: "I feel like I'm talking to a wall."

I know how he feels. I've raised the thorny issue of liquor law reform here before, but the most recent example of doublethink and downright idiocy from the powers that be has driven me to the keyboard once more.

Apparently, we live in a country where buying 24 cans of beer is considered less likely to lead to alcohol abuse than buying a single bottle of beer. Yeah right, I hear you say.

I'm not joking. A letter from Auckland Council to off-licences attached a form that licensees could sign wherein they promised not to sell beer or RTDs in single units.

This sort of heavy-handed bullying is exactly what I was afraid of when it was mooted that councils should have more of a say in liquor licensing, but it's not just my sense of fair play that is upset; you might be as well.

Removing single sales from businesses authorised to sell liquor for consumption off the premises might sound quite sensible to many, especially those who tend to buy wine rather than beer or spirits.

But what of the next time you go to the supermarket to buy a bottle of, say, Epic Pale Ale? If the council is to be obeyed (as of course it must, being the fount of all wisdom and knowledge), you're out of luck. Similarly with all those lovely individual bottles of fine British ales. You're clearly a roaring alkie if you want just one bottle, but you're as good as gold if you want 24 bottles or cans of Ranfurly. Go figure.

Of course, it's unlikely that the law will affect supermarkets, seeing as they are Teflon-coated as far as councils or even governments go. But the bullying principle trickles through our lives regardless.

If councils and governments wanted to change people's drinking habits, they'd do it. But when the liquor industry can be milked like a bloated cash cow, where's the incentive? Like I say, talking to a wall ...

- Herald on Sunday

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