The hospitality sector is calling for the government to make temporary changes to on-licence law to allow businesses operating under level 3 restrictions to sell alcohol with takeaways to increase revenue.
The Restaurant Association says a temporary change to the Sales and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 would significantly benefit businesses struggling to stay afloat.
The association wrote to Justice Minister Andrew Little during the first lockdown in April lobbying for change using the provisions set out in Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 to better support the hospitality sector's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
It proposed that changes allow already on-licenced restaurants, cafes and bars to apply for "emergency off-licences" while the alert levels remain in place, through the creation of a new special licence or an off-licence type with reduced processing times and fees.
Similar measures have already happened internationally, including in the Australian states of Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.
But the Restaurant Association says the industry's calls for a quick change to on-licence law has so far fallen on deaf ears.
David Meagher, owner of Mount Albert's Sal Rose Italian Restaurant & Bar, says his business was able to make about 40 per cent of its regular turnover during level 3 restrictions in April, but it was "nowhere near" that this time round.
Allowing on-licence businesses like his to sell a bottle of wine with a food-to-go order would make a significant difference to revenue and the financial position of a business during these uncertain times, he said.
"It would be another lifeline," Meagher told the Herald last week. "It's another form of revenue stream.
"I get asked every day virtually when people come in to pick something up or if they ring; 'David, when you deliver this pasta dish or risotto or beef cheeks can you bring a bottle with you' - they only want to do it because they know they are supporting you, but also it's something that goes really well with the food."
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Meagher said any move to allow on-premise sellers to sell alcohol with their click and collect or takeaway deliveries could save businesses on the brink of closure.
"If they can blanket legislate and say we're closing down everything for x number of days they could quite easily turnaround and say they are making a discretionary decision that all licenses premises that are selling food to go are able to sell alcohol."
Business owners would not mind if the quantity permitted to be sold was limited. For example, one bottle of wine per order, he said.
"We don't know how long we'll be in this level 3 scenario, we could be in and out of it for some time, and we have a whole lot of stock sitting there doing nothing."
Marisa Bidois, chief executive of the Restaurant Association, said the association had not received any feedback from Little's office, but it had since renewed its efforts to lobby for changes to on-licence law.
"We don't want our businesses to be taking over the specialty [alcohol] stores or anything like that, it's about making it easier for customers and adding to operators ability to be able to generate some revenue during a challenging trading period," Bidois said.
"We thought that it would be quick and reasonable to adjust the liquor licencing laws to allow our members and the wider industry to deliver alcohol with their meals during this time."
Bidois said she had received no correspondence from the ministry or minister, and had not been contacted for a meeting or called to discuss the matter.
The Ministry of Justice oversees the sale and supply of alcohol regulations.
Little told the Herald officials had looked into whether temporary changes were possible, but he said it was not possible under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006.
"It would involve a substantial variation to the existing law for alcohol and the current licensing regime, so they would need to go through the normal parliamentary process," Little said.
"I acknowledge that this is disappointing for the industry. I encourage businesses to access the current support available through wage subsidies, business tax changes to free up cashflow, including a provisional tax threshold lift, the reinstatement of building depreciation and writing off interest on the late payment of tax.
"These are intended to help people stay in jobs and reduce the effect on businesses."