Cabinet was warned if liquor shops were shut during lockdown there could be "booze runs", stockpiling and harm to people with addictions.
But it ultimately rejected this advice and ordered they close except in areas alcohol can't be sold in supermarkets.
In one of the hundreds of briefing papers dumped this afternoon, advice to Cabinet on essential services said liquor shops should stay open.
Officials advised on March 24 they thought liquor outlets could operate in a similar way as supermarkets with the appropriate public health requirements.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Researchers find New York was the 'gateway' for US infections
• Covid-19 coronavirus: What will life look like under alert level 2
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Two new cases; Auckland rest home nurse tests positive
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Government dumps thousands of official Covid papers
As there are parts of New Zealand where alcohol can't be bought from supermarkets, like West Auckland, deeming liquor stores non-essential could impact people with addiction issues.
Police were also concerned a scarcity of alcohol could lead to stockpiling "or a run on liquor stores" in the two days the country was in alert level 3 before lockdown.
"Another risk is that closing liquor outlets may lead to people doing "booze runs", where they travel beyond their communities to get alcohol. This will impact our ability to contain
Officials recognised there could be a risk allowing booze shops to stay open could create a perception of unequal treatment between retail stores but that could be managed "by communicating the need to avoid causing undue harm to people with addiction issues".
"We do not think there is a need to distinguish between liquor outlets in licensing trust
areas, or those that are not. Essentially they sell different products (supermarkets generally sell wine and beer).
"We think clear, universal rules will be easier for the public and stores to understand and comply with."
But Cabinet rejected this advice and deemed liquor stores non-essential and ultimately only allowed booze shops to remain open in the four areas where licensing trusts hold a monopoly.