Merivale Liquor Center's hours challenged

By James Fuller

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The trading hours of a liquor store reputedly selling the cheapest liquor in Tauranga are being challenged in an effort to curb alcohol abuse.

Merivale Community Centre chief executive Graham Cameron said the low prices and long hours of the Merivale Liquor Centre were damaging to the community.

"Hours are the main thing for us. It's open from 9 in the morning until 10 at night and that's seven days a week," Mr Cameron told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

"People who have been pre-loading earlier on have an easy choice to access even more alcohol late at night."

He said young people would often get older siblings or adults to buy alcohol for them.

"It's said if the store was closed or hours reduced then people would simply go elsewhere like Fraser Cove. But for younger people even that [travelling to Fraser Cove] is a much bigger step and would act as a deterrent," Mr Cameron said.


The Fraser Street store's owners had a right to run a business but his concern was for Merivale residents.

"This is more of a community issue about the ready availability of cheap alcohol for extended periods and the affect that has. You can talk about P or other drugs but the lingering cancer in our community is the abuse of alcohol," Mr Cameron said.

He said community action and advocacy would be the way forward. He cited the example of Cannons Creek, Porirua, where a bottle store had its trading hours reduced by the Liquor Licensing Authority when renewing its liquor licence.

That store was also forced to close between 2.45pm and 3.15pm on weekdays because of children travelling to and from a nearby school. It is a precedent that could have implications for Merivale. Merivale School is just around the corner from the liquor store in Kesteven Ave.


 


Leanne Fairbairn, community constable for Merivale, said there were issues around having alcohol available so close to a school.

"There is a walkway through the school grounds and, having purchased alcohol, people will walk through that way. The concern there is around making alcohol more visible in the community and to the children especially," Ms Fairbairn said.

Tauranga police's alcohol harm reduction co-ordinator, Nigel McGlone, said he was unaware of any reported incidents relating to the Merivale Liquor Centre. He said a liquor ban, preventing the consumption or possession of opened alcohol in the surrounding area, had been in force since 2010.


The store had been operating since 2006 but a change in ownership meant an application for a new licence had to be made last year. The Liquor Licensing Authority approved the application on December 6, 2012.

"If there had been issues with the store this would have been the time [during the application process] to have voiced those concerns," said Mr McGlone.

Mike Franicevic, Merivale Liquor Centre duty manager, said there had been three objections to the licence application.

"There are 10 homes immediately facing the store and there were three objections. Three is 30 per cent, that's nothing, and then if you count Hampton Terrace, Oxford Street and all those streets around there you've got a lot more people."

Restricting hours would mean people would simply buy alcohol earlier, he said.

"We're open until 10pm and we do get a bit of business from that but it's so minor. It's not like 4 or 5pm when people are finishing work, we're really busy then with people coming in from the neighbouring industrial areas," he said. Mr Franicevic said he believed the store was the city's cheapest place to buy alcohol.

He said he felt the alcohol issue was being overstated.

"What's one of the biggest problems in the world today? Obesity. Well there's a bakery next door and standing outside all you see is cakes. The kids walk straight past there so why not have a problem with them as well. Where do you stop?"

- Bay of Plenty Times

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