Holiday booze confusion

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By Alice Neville

Fancy going out for a drink today? If you're out of luck at your local, you could always try a pool hall, strip club or even a ferry.

The inconsistencies in our "farcical" licensing laws have prompted criticism from senior figures in the hospitality industry.

The Sale of Liquor Act prevents liquor being sold or supplied on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day or before 1pm on Anzac Day at off-licences or establishments with tavern licences.

But there are many exclusions from the legislation.

If you visit a venue with a tavern licence "for the purpose of dining" you should be okay - although the meaning of the phrase is at staff discretion.

And if you're staying at a hotel, head for the bar - "any person who is for the time being living on the premises" is excluded from the restrictions.

Restaurant licences are also excluded, so if the proprietors agree, you can have a drink without buying food.

Another way to buy a beer is to hop on a boat - ferries, planes and trains have special licences that exclude them from the restrictions.

Fullers spokeswoman Lucy Farrington confirmed alcohol would be sold as normal on all Easter sailings around Auckland, without a holiday surcharge.

You'll also be able to drink if you're a member of a club that sells alcohol, such as a Cosmopolitan Club or RSA.

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Strip clubs and pool halls are okay because they hold entertainment licences, and events can also be granted special licences.

Rugby fans who attended the Good Friday Super 14 clash at Wellington's Westpac Stadium could enjoy the spectacle with beer in hand, but those watching in nearby pubs couldn't.

That situation was branded "farcical" by the president of the Hospitality Association's Wellington branch, Adam Cunningham.

"It seems bizarre in a country where we're focused on tourism to be sending one message 362 days of the year and another for 3 days of the year.

"Why not be as consistent as we can so there is as little confusion as possible? It is very hard for the hospitality industry to try and explain to locals and visitors alike that 'sorry, we can't look after you today because of this law'."

Luke Dallow decided to shut his Auckland bars Sale St and Chapel on Good Friday and today because complying with liquor restrictions had become too difficult.

The Auckland hospitality stalwart said he would lose about half his usual weekly turnover as a result.

He has no problem with the restrictions on Good Friday, but thinks the Easter Sunday booze ban is "a bit archaic - let's get into modern times here."

The Law Commission is reviewing the Sale of Liquor Act with a report due this month.

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