Councils could lift cap on bottle shops

By John Cousins

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Countdown is worried at the councils talk to lift the cap on bottle shops
Countdown is worried at the councils talk to lift the cap on bottle shops

Western Bay councils are considering removing the cap to restrict the number of bottle stores allowed to be established in their area.

Legal challenges have been received from a number of commercial interests worried about the proposal to cap the number of off-licences to the current 70 outlets in Tauranga and 32 in the rest of the Western Bay.

The cap was part of the joint councils' alcohol policy to control opening hours and the number of pubs and bottle stores.

Western Bay District Council's acting policy and planning manager Liz Davies said Progressive Enterprises, which operated Countdown Supermarkets, was concerned at how the cap would impact on its investment decisions, particularly at the planned Tauranga Crossing development at Tauriko.

She said the Western Bay and Tauranga City councils looked at a whole range of options to retain the cap but allow new supermarkets to open.

"We struggled to find that compromise so we are looking at removing it from the provisional policy."

The provisional policy was under appeal by various commercial interests, including Progressive.

Ms Davies said alcohol policies were very new and none had been tested in court. Few councils were proposing caps on off-licences, with Auckland looking at a two-year freeze on new licences.

"Everyone is waiting to see how that is received," she said.

Even if the cap was removed, people could still oppose applications for new licences to the Alcohol Regulations Licensing Authority.

Ms Davies said they were looking at waiting until the outcome of appeals lodged against bigger councils in order to give them a clearer steer on opening hours and caps.

It was quite likely that a decision would be made on the Western Bay's provisional policy before the appeals elsewhere had been decided because Progressive wanted to get on with Tauriko.

Progressive Enterprises media liaison manager Kate Porter said appeals had been lodged on the cap and proposed opening hours. They were seeking to retain the status quo of 11pm, instead of the proposed 10pm closing.

Another Countdown spokesman said the development would not go ahead unless they had the ability to sell liquor.

He indicated that a cap on off-licences would result in people paying huge amounts of money to get a licence because a new outlet could only be created if another bottle store closed.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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