Two of Dunedin's biggest student bars have shut suddenly, and their owner has pointed to Dunedin's ''utterly conservative'' councillors as the cause.
Monday's closures of Boogie Nights and Capone, along with the shutting of Urban Factory last year, had cost 55 jobs, the bars' owner, Rob Dale, said.
He warned that would drive patrons into unregulated and dangerous house parties.
The closures come after Dunedin's draft local alcohol policy (Lap) included what Mr Dale said would be ''the most draconian liquor laws in the whole country''.
The Lap originally scheduled to be signed off in February is not finalised.
''Dunedin will end up having the strongest and hardest liquor laws in New Zealand.''
The result would be an increase in scale and frequency of house parties, he said.
''Parties will get bigger and bigger and bigger, and they're an uncontrolled and unregulated environment.
''Kids are going to get really badly hurt as a result of this.''
Mr Dale said the draft Lap's main problems were a one-way door policy from 1am, and the forced closing of outdoor areas from 11pm.
He said Dunedin's councillors were ''beyond unqualified'' to be creating laws for today's youth, and were setting a course which could lead to the city's financial ruin.
Already students were telling him the shine had come off Dunedin as a destination, and the Lap was a major factor.
He said councillors were looking in the wrong place in their quest to diminish the city's drinking culture, and the Lap sent a ''terrible message'' to young people considering Dunedin as a place to study.
''They're basically saying, 'don't bother'. It's going to have a long-term effect on Dunedin. And I don't think it's going to be a positive effect.''
Deputy mayor Chris Stayne said it was a shame the bars had closed, and it was particularly disappointing for the 55 people who had lost their jobs.
But Mr Dale was ''drawing a pretty long bow'' to suggest the failure of his bars was a result of a Lap that was yet to be finalised, Mr Stayne said.
''I don't know how successful his current businesses are, but I think it would be hard to assume that the proposed changes have had such a significant impact on a business.
''As a city, we're not going to put out a Lap directly aimed at destroying our city's on-licences.
''They're part of the fabric of our city and we don't want to see jobs lost.''
Hospitality New Zealand Otago branch president Mark Scully said the Lap's delayed announcement was causing much uncertainty to Dunedin bar owners.
Some of the proposed rules, including those cited by Mr Dale, were ''ridiculous'', he said.
But Mr Scully called Mr Dale's decision to close before the Lap was finalised ''a wee bit premature''.
Mr Dale said he accepted the eventual shape of Dunedin's liquor laws would probably include some concessions that were not in the original draft, but it would be too little, too late.
''Businesses get stale really fast, especially businesses for young people.
''So if you can't spend any time or money on them because you're likely to be regulated out of existence, then the only option is to fold.''
Business failures were always complicated, Mr Dale said.
''I'd just like to thank my staff for all their hard work, and apologise for not being able to make it work.''