Beer, wine may be roped off

By John Cousins

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Eight Tauranga supermarkets could be forced to stop selling beer and wine for the last hour of trading in order to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

A joint meeting of the Tauranga City Council and Western Bay District Council agreed yesterday to restrict the sale of alcohol in supermarkets to between 7am and 9pm.

The 7-5 vote was to stop supermarkets gaining a competitive advantage over bottle stores which the councils agreed should trade from 7am to 9pm. It was the biggest issue to surface at yesterday's workshop to overhaul local alcohol rules.

If the proposed hours survived public consultation, it meant that five Countdown supermarkets, the city's two Pak 'n Saves and one New World supermarket (Brookfield) will need to rope off their beer and wine aisles at 9pm.

Unaffected because they already close at 9pm would be the Countdown supermarkets at Bayfair (1), Greerton, Katikati and Te Puke, and the New World supermarkets at Gate Pa, Mount Maunganui and Te Puke.

The decision was despite a plea by Countdown spokes-woman Kate Porter to continue to allow them to sell alcohol until 10pm. Ten per cent of Countdown's business was alcohol.

She said that 98 per cent of shoppers were also buying food when they purchased alcohol."It will inconvenience 98 per cent for the sake of a few."

Ms Porter told the Bay of Plenty Times afterwards that the intent of the legislation was to minimise harm. The councils' decisions needed to be based on evidence that restricting the hours would make a difference.

She said the councils needed to really think about the issue in order to save a lot of time and money later on.

Yesterday's three-hour meeting was not enough time to debate all the liquor policy issues. Another workshop next month will consider trading hours for bars and taverns and the introduction of a one-way door rule to stop people drifting from bar to bar in the early morning.

The meeting went against police and health authority advice to cap the number of bottle stores in the poorer parts of Tauranga and the Western Bay. Instead it was agreed to cap them on the basis of the number of bottle stores per head of population across the whole of the Western Bay, including Tauranga. There was little support for a sinking lid policy.

New bottles stores will not be permitted to be set up within 500 metres of an early childhood centre, primary or secondary school. Existing liquor outlets were exempt. Likewise, a new bottle store would not be permitted within 500 metres of an established bottle store.

The proximity rules and caps would not apply to grocery stores like Four Squares which sold wine and beer. The status quo would continue.

Tauranga's downtown would also be exempt from proximity rules.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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