For dairies masquerading as grocery stores, size will matter under sweeping law changes proposed for the sale of alcohol.
The Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, introduced to Parliament yesterday, sets a minimum shop size of 150sq m for dairy owners selling off-licence liquor.
Shops that don't measure up will have three years to do so or have their liquor licences taken away.
The proposal is among measures that include changes to who can sell alcohol, where it can be sold and at what times.
Associate Justice Minister Lianne Dalziel said supermarkets and grocery stores had been allowed to sell alcohol since 1989, but Parliament had in 1999 specifically voted against granting dairies the right to do so.
But many shops that were "dairies by another name" had got around the law by calling themselves "convenience" stores, she said.
Shops in areas where there was no larger store, and where it would be uneconomic to establish one within 10km, would be spared having to meet the shop-size requirement.
Dairies will continue to be banned from selling liquor.
Ms Dalziel was confident the bill would be sent to a select committee before Parliament is dissolved for the election.
The changes were sparked by the shooting of liquor store owner Navtej Singh, 30, during a robbery at his Manurewa liquor store.
Mr Singh's cousin Gurwinder Singh, who was in the dairy when the shooting took place, had not heard about the bill but told the Herald the Government should be concentrating more on prosecuting parents who give their underage children alcohol, and looking at how criminals got firearms.
He said the law should allow shop-owners to carry guns to protect themselves.
Manukau City councillor Daniel Newman predicted the bill would create an alcohol price war between supermarkets.
"I don't believe we should allow dairy owners and bottle shop owners to operate in suburban communities and cluster and create a price where alcohol becomes so cheap that it becomes very accessible for communities already under [economic] stress."
But, he said, he was also nervous about any law change that gave more power and a greater market share to supermarkets, which were also contributing to the problem.
"The last thing we need is a price war that makes alcohol even cheaper and fattens up the profit margins of big supermarkets."
The Drug Foundation backed the changes, but said the bill did not go far enough on alcohol advertising.
"Unfortunately the bill is also silent on the price of alcohol," said executive director Ross Bell.
"We know the ready availability of cheap booze is a key factor in our poor drinking culture.
"Cheap alcohol not only influences young people's drinking, especially of cheap, sweet alcopops, but it also encourages all other drinkers to consume more."
The Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill will be accompanied by a wide-ranging Law Commission review of liquor laws.
That investigation - to last 2 1/2 years - will examine aspects of the liquor industry, including:
* The proliferation of liquor outlets and the effect on consumption.
* The minimum age at which liquor can be bought.
* Parents' responsibilities to minors
* Liquor outlet trading hours and advertising.
* The relationship between drinking and crime.
Law Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer said the review would give MPs a chance in a few years to work with comprehensive material on wider law.
Communities get a greater say on when, where and how liquor can be sold.
Zero alcohol limit for under 20s on limited licences.
Abolition of "reasonable belief" defence for sale of alcohol to underagers.
"Three strikes, you're out" law for licence holders caught selling to minors.
OWNER'S FORECAST: THIS COULD RUIN US
Grey Lynn superette owner Shantilal Prema says plans to stop small stores selling alcohol could be the end for his business.
The Williamson Ave Superette has been selling wine and alcohol for about 3 1/2 years - a move that helps the small store stay afloat in a highly competitive market.
Alcohol sales contribute about 30 per cent of the takings.
With that gone, Mr Prema says, he would have to find a new product to replace the lost income or close his business of 24 years.
"It's a bit of a worry for us. We built it up a little and get ourselves going and what next?
"We would really have to reconsider things if we can't find any other stock that can keep us going."
Mr Premar said his 115 sq m store had never had any problems selling alcohol, nor had it breached its liquor licence. He felt any new rules against small stores selling alcohol should not affect those that already hold licences.
"They have got some stringent rules coming in. They can do that, but I think those that have got [licences] right now, if they are complying with things, they should stay there."
Mr Prema said business was already difficult for small dairies, which could never compete with supermarkets such as the one only 400m from his store. Most of his customers who bought alcohol didn't want to wait in queues or who just needed one or two items and a bottle of wine to go with dinner. He rarely had problems with underage buyers.
"We don't have any problems with the young people and very seldom have to ask for identification."
- Elizabeth Binning