The Whangarei District Council has approved changes to its liquor licensing policy despite an angry protest from the local hospitality sector and warnings the move will see jobs lost and businesses close.
About 30 hospitality workers and bar owners held placards protesting against the changes before a meeting to formally adopt the new rules yesterday.
The protest failed to sway councillors who unanimously approved the amended policy.
Under the policy, patrons who exit on-license premises would be denied re-entry after 1am. The new licensing hours will come into force on December 31, 2012, after the Rugby World Cup, with the date in line with the licence renewal cycle which is aimed at providing a level playing field for businesses.
The 28-month sunset period will also permit businesses to adapt to the new trading hours.
Mayor Stan Semenoff's assurance that the council carried out extensive public consultation and came up with what was best for the district did not wash with the affected bar owners.
Owen Sinclair, co-owner of Killer Prawn and McMorrissey's, said he knew of two, maybe three premises, that would close down due to the one-way door policy.
"There'll definitely be loss of hours for staff. At Killer Prawn, three staff will each lose two hours on Friday and two on Saturday," Mr Sinclair said.
"The same number of staff at McMorrissey's will be affected those days. We'll also have to increase security at the doors to keep people away."
During debate in the council chambers, Councillor Greg Martin said on-license premises in the CBD should be treated the same as those in rural areas.
Unlike the new liquor licensing policy, he called for the same operating hours in all areas. However, Mr Martin voted in favour of the new policy.
Similarly, Councillor Merv Williams consented to the council's amended policy despite saying it was important to see what the Government's direction on the issuewas. The Government is going through its own liquor review.
He said while on-license holders weren't happy, the council had received strong feedback from those who wanted the one-door policy and the new hours.
Mr Semenoff said those who had experienced alcohol problems, politicians and the Northland District Health Board had all contributed towards the new policy which aimed to protect young people and families.
He welcomed the large group of protesters, saying it showed democracy at its best.
"I must say that this council has gone in-depth on the issue and I assure you that all processes have been followed."
Mr Sinclair said he did not understand why the councillors all voted in favour of the new policy when not all agreed to it.
"Five of them had issues with it. They are not the ones trying to make a living out of it ... they're tucked in bed," he said.
The draft proposal drew 103 submissions from a cross-section of the community, from supermarket giants Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises, the Salvation Army, Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand, police and the Hospitality Association of New Zealand.