Booze bust tally surprises

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The number of Northland operators caught in police liquor-licensing crackdowns has surprised hospitality industry representatives.

At least 25 enforcement applications were considered by the Licensing Authority against Northland operators in 2012, nine against liquor licence holders and 16 against manager's certificates.

Hospitality NZ Northland Branch president and the owner of Whangarei's Rynoz Bar and Stonegrill, Phil Sentch, said he was surprised to hear the numbers were so high.

Last month two Bay of Islands off-licence liquor outlets were snapped selling alcohol to minors during a transtasman police sting.

Mr Sentch said hospitality operators knew about the checks, which served as a reminder "to make sure everyone is behaving".

"Nobody's perfect and if you keep trying to have a crack at somebody I guess you may or may not get them eventually."

Different areas of Northland were busy at different times in the holidays.

Police also had a different definition of "intoxication" to a bar manager, he said: "In a bar, you're watching people from the time they come in. A lot of the time the police will look at someone and in the space of five minutes make their mind up."

Mr Sentch said techniques such as watching patrons use an Eftpos keypad to "make sure they're pushing the buttons coherently" were used to determine if they were becoming intoxicated.

Nationally, more than 740 enforcement applications were considered by the authority last year. About 630 cases resulted in suspensions and 42 in cancellations.

The Ministry of Justice said the most common breaches were selling alcohol to minors, having intoxicated patrons in bars, and breaching licence conditions.

Hospitality NZ chief executive Bruce Robertson said the industry was being unfairly targeted for the drinking problem: "Simply applying more conditions to an industry that's actually operating pretty well now is not going to influence the behaviour of New Zealanders who drink, when most of the irresponsible alcohol consumption is away from licensed premises."

- Northern Advocate

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