Rugby World Cup pub spies staying safe

By Kieran Nash

Sarah Noble says aggro is fairly rare. Photo / Janna Dixon
Sarah Noble says aggro is fairly rare. Photo / Janna Dixon

Pub inspectors have been issued with stab-proof vests to protect them from bar patrons during the Rugby World Cup.

The Auckland Council's licensing compliance officers visit Auckland's bars late at night to check publicans are complying with liquor laws.

The policy came into place just before the Cup as a precaution because of the thousands of extra punters expected to pack the pubs on game nights.

Liquor licensing team leader Sarah Noble said the vests gave the officers peace of mind.

"I certainly feel safer wearing the vest. When you're around people who are drinking or taking other substances they can respond in ways that they wouldn't normally.

"It only takes one person to pick up a smashed glass - it's good to be prepared in case the worst happens."

She said aggro was fairly rare. Officers travelled in pairs or with police and had contingency plans if anything went wrong.

"When we don't like the feel of it, we back off a bit."

The vests had the bonus of keeping the officers warm on cold nights.

"It's a little bit weird at first: they're quite heavy and restrictive. You get used to them quite quickly," she said.

Council licensing and compliance manager Carole Todd said: "We issued them just prior to the Rugby World Cup on the basis that safety is paramount for our officers. It's a sign of the times - not that any of our officers have been assaulted.

"At the end of the day we've got to take precautions."

She said officers worked the bars on game nights until as late as four the next morning.

"Our officers were quite happy to wear the vest. They're working alongside the police in an environment that can get aggressive."

Usually a team of 13 monitored compliance through the whole council area but numbers had risen to about 25 for the Cup.

They would probably keep wearing the vests after the Cup as well.

The officer in charge of the police alcohol harm reduction unit, Sergeant Bryce Law, said overall pub patrons had been good during the tournament.

"Since the first Friday night things have improved.

"The bars have been quite well-behaved."

- Herald on Sunday

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