The owner of a Wellington Four Square that sold 3.8 tonnes of poppy seed in one year is fighting for permission to sell alcohol.
The Wellington District Licensing Committee (DLC) last year declined an application for the Four Square to renew its off-licence, partly due to the belief the poppy seed sales could not reasonably be seen as food product sales.
The DLC pointed to newspaper and medical papers outlining how poppy seed "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 seed between December 2016 and December 2017.
That was the equivalent weight as two and a half Toyota Corollas weighing 1800kg each.
The $66,255 worth of poppy sees 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 200g 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.
Now the store's owner is appealing the DLC's decision, and has also tried unsuccessfully to get permission to continue selling alcohol in the meantime.
In a decision released by the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority, Challenge Ventures Limited, which owns the Four Square, argued the business would go under without the ability to sell alcohol.
It applied for a stay of the DLC's decision, saying it had been informed by Foodstuffs that if it lost its licence, it will also lose the franchise.
The submissions also said sales dropped noticeably after the DLC decision was released, and that Challenge Ventures Ltd had only one source of income.
But licensing inspector Joanne Burt opposed the stay, saying there was no evidence Foodstuffs would remove the franchise, and there had been no certification of the profit and loss figures provided by the owner.
She also said it should not be difficult to operate the Four Square without alcohol sales, given it was supposedly a grocery store. She argued it was a privilege and not a right to hold a licence.
Medical Officer of Health Gregor Allan also opposed the application, and said there was not enough evidence to show the owners of the store would suffer hardship due to the decision.
The Authority called Challenge Venture Ltd's evidence "speculative and largely unpersuasive".
It declined the application for stay.
As yet there is no date set for the appeal hearing.
Why did Shalimar Four Square lose its licence?
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 products.
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.
"If people use them for other reasons, that it outside Mrs Patel's knowledge," the committee wrote in summary of her testimony.