Hotel and bar closing times to stay same

By John Cousins news@bayofplentytimes co nz

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Public opinion has ensured the status quo will remain for hotel and bar closing hours in Tauranga and the rest of the Western Bay.

The Bay's councils have backed away from a plan to extend Tauranga downtown's 3am closing to the whole of the Western Bay.

A joint meeting this week of the two councils agreed to stick with 1am closing except the downtown, which stays at 3am. Although police failed in their bid for a 2am closing for the downtown, they did succeed with the introduction of a one-way door policy in the last hour of trading to stop people bar hopping. It was already happening in an informal way.

The 3am closing for bars across the whole of the Western Bay met with strong resistance, including a warning that the city's struggling downtown entertainment area would die. Mount Maunganui residents who lived near the Mount Shopping Centre did not want to put up with the racket of people emptying out of bars at 3am.

The meeting also favoured extending the trading hours for bottle stores to 10pm, instead of the earlier proposal of 9pm. It avoided the situation of supermarkets that closed at 10pm being forced to stop selling beer and wine an hour earlier.

The other big change of heart was a decision to revisit the earlier plan to cap licensed premises to one per every 2868 people.

It followed strong submissions the proposed liquor rules were so broad-brush they sacrificed the interests of individual communities.

Safer cities advocate Mike Mills said the proposed Local Alcohol Policy failed to reflect the local character, values and needs of communities.

He warned it would create a situation where people felt their only recourse was to oppose liquor licensing applications on a case-by-case basis.

He suggested breaking up the Western Bay into six distinct communities of interest in order to develop policies that were relevant to each area.

Western Bay District Council's policy, planning and community manager Rachel Davie told the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday the meeting had asked staff to come back with alternatives to a cap based on a population formula.

They were asked to look at what the evidence said, what submitters said, and come back with a framework that could cover having no restrictions at all, a cap on the number of licensed premises, or a sinking lid policy for particular areas.

"That is quite a big shift in their thinking."

Staff will report back to this Tuesday's joint council meeting on the Local Alcohol Policy, which will also be considering the issue of introducing restrictions on the locations of new licensed premises, such as the proximity to schools.

She said a map showing the locations of licensed premises, including in Te Puke, had sharpened councillors' minds and helped them decide that they needed to have another look at the issue.

"They do see a need to move away from a population-based cap."

The joint committee of the two councils will recommend back to each council. A final decision will not be made before the council elections.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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