A Four Square has been refused permission to sell alcohol, in part because of its roaring trade in poppy seeds.

A liquor licensing committee believed the seeds at Shalimar Four Square on Willis St in Wellington were not sold primarily as food. It pointed to newspaper and medical papers outlining how they "can be used to produce a tea that contains an opioid content sufficient to produce psychoactive effects and to cause withdrawal symptoms when discontinued abruptly".

"Given the volumes sold in this case, there is a strong inference that the poppy seed sales are not for the maintenance of life or growth, or nourishment," the committee wrote in its decision.

"It is difficult to escape the impression ... the poppy seeds sold by the applicant in this case are being used for their psychoactive properties."


The Aro Valley store sold 3.8 tonnes of poppy seeds between December 2016 and December 2017.

That was the equivalent weight as two and a half Toyota Corollas weighing 1800 kilograms each.

The $66,255 worth of poppy seeds brought in more cash than Shalimar's $53,000 worth of confectionery sales.

The seeds were also sometimes kept behind the counter in bags as small as 200 grams rather than in the body of the Four Square store, meaning they were only available for sale to those who specifically asked for them, a Medical Officer of Health said.

How the poppy seeds were being consumed was important because of the type of liquor licence applied for.

In January 2018, the store sought an extension to a grocery store licence to sell takeaway alcohol that it had held since 1999.

To be granted a grocery store liquor licence, shops must sell more food than any other product.

Shalimar initially produced a list of its yearly revenue as part of its licence application showing it had sold slightly more food than any other product.


But when the list was reviewed by a liquor licensing Inspector, it was found some items had been incorrectly coded as food.

The revised list showed Shalimar had in fact sold more alcohol and convenience foods than those correctly classified as food.

Shalimar subsequently sought more time to review its sales. It then presented a second list prepared by an accountant in which it moved the 3810kg of poppy seed sales valued at $66,255 from the "other" category of sales into the "food" category.

This revised list purported to show Shalimar had sold more food than other products.

But ultimately, the committee rejected this revised list on the basis the poppy seeds weren't sold as food.

Shalimar owner Nalini Patel told the committee the seeds were sold with the intention customers would take them home for baking or in meals.

She estimated 25-30 per cent were sold to local bakeries, while other seeds "were purchased by individuals for use in home baking".

"If people use them for other reasons, that it outside Mrs Patel's knowledge," the committee wrote in summary of her testimony.

However, when the committee asked Patel how much flour she sold, she estimated it to be between 54-72kg per month.

That was significantly less than the 316kg of poppy seeds sold per month.

"If there were urgent purchases required from bakeries, then we would have anticipated that other associated products, such as flour, would also be high volume sales," the committee said.

"That is not the case here."

This meant the committee considered Shalimar had made higher sales of other products than food and rejected its liquor licence application.

Patel said her lawyer would provide a written statement tomorrow.