By SIMON COLLINS

Two licensed restaurants which have been shut down by police are launching a petition to end the monopoly on West Auckland liquor sales held by the Portage and Waitakere licensing trusts.

And an Auckland Regional Council member who owns another restaurant in the area, Carl Harding, is threatening to resign from the Labour Party unless Labour backs moves to remove the trusts' monopoly.

Mr Harding's restaurant, the Thirsty Rooster in Glendene, is also facing police action to cancel its liquor licence after the other two "restaurants" were found to be trading as "taverns."

His case is expected to be heard by the Liquor Licensing Authority in July or August. Tomorrow, the authority is also due to hear a fourth case against the Bullock and Vine restaurant in Henderson Valley Rd.

The owners of the two restaurants that have already been closed, Dean Murphy of Murphy's Bar, New Lynn, and Barry Waterton of the Korner Restaurant, Kelston, plan a petition to force a referendum on the monopoly held by the two trusts.

"We are living in the Dark Ages and something has to be done about it," says Mr Murphy.

He had been trading for two and a half years, and his predecessor for two years before that as the "Hook, Line and Sinker." Since the authority rejected his liquor licence application in February, he has had to lay off the four fulltime and three casual staff.

Mr Waterton has also laid off four fulltime staff and six casuals since his restaurant was closed on April 21.

The pair need to collect signatures of 15 per cent of electors in the Portage Licensing Trust area, or 5694 people, to force a poll on removing the Portage trust's liquor monopoly.

However, a poll will not be necessary if Parliament passes the Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill (No 3), which would abolish the country's remaining seven licensing trust monopolies.

The bill is before the commerce select committee.