Grabbing a beer after work could soon cost more, with Whangarei's liquor licensing fees becoming the most expensive in the country.
Whangarei's Grand Hotel owner Vic Hill said the fee increase could result in customers paying more, staff cuts, falling profits and more venues shutting their doors.
Whangarei District Council said the fees were largely a result of legislation imposed on the council by central Government and that the cost of enforcing liquor licences had to be met by either ratepayers or the businesses.
The Government set default fees in 2013 under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (2012). WDC then opted to create a bylaw which hiked these by a further 63 to 78 per cent from 2017 onwards. The 2016 fees were part of a stepped increase.
Mr Hill said that before the Act came into force, he was paying $1632 for a three-year period for an on- and off-licence. Under the council bylaw, Mr Hill said he would pay $8104 to renew two "medium" class licenses this year. Next time the three-year fee would be even higher, at $9098.
The council was checking these figures. Under the Government's default fees, Mr Hill would be paying $5428 for three years for two medium-class licenses.
"A number of venues in Whangarei have already shut their doors and the city is losing its vibrancy," he said.
His manager, Mike Hoeta, said there would be a lot of "consumer resistance" to prices going up.
Jess White, owner/operator of The Old Stone Butter Factory, said she would like better communication from council when it made decisions that affected businesses.
"You don't get kept in the loop. It's more like, 'by the way, that's changed'... It does seem like we're constantly trying to please this mistress that's never happy."
Ms White said fee increases would add to the list of things making times tough for hospitality businesses, including strict noise control, the one-way door system, a lack of taxis in town and a lower drink-drive limit.
"Instead, people are going home alone and getting a bottle of wine on the way, I don't think that's helping the drinking culture," Ms White said.
"It's turning the problem behind closed doors. Whereas we work really hard to create a healthy environment and can provide alternatives if we see people starting to get intoxicated."
WDC group manager district living Paul Dell said the council's alcohol fee bylaw, adopted in March after public consultation, meant ratepayers subsidised a smaller proportion of the liquor licence enforcement costs. The act had also added to council's enforcement costs.
"With the new fees ratepayers will only pay 35 per cent and the licensee will pay 65 per cent," Mr Dell said.