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Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill
Sundays & Supermarkets

Repeal of S.32

What the Bill proposes
(C. 30 and 31: Repeal of SOL S.36, changes to S.37)
  • No restrictions on any business holding an off-licence, except petrol stations.
  • No restrictions on Sunday trading.
  • Beer and spirits, as well as wine, in supermarkets - or dairies

Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit recommends
keeping the present ‘reasonable system of control’
[S. 2] through:

  • Continuing alcohol off-sales in the hands of specialist licensed businesses,
    as a broad principle.
  • Continuing to sell wine only in supermarkets - and not every corner dairy.
  • No liquor sales by or neighbouring on petrol stations
  • Continuing to support reduced drinking on Sundays
Repeal of S.36
Section 36 of the Act limits the kind of business which can hold on-licences.

Dairies and petrol stations are expressly excluded and supermarkets are distinguished from dairies by size. The specific exclusion of dairies was added by MPs in the house, and probably accurately captures concerns about increasing liberalisation of liquor licensing.

Under this section the Liquor Licensing Authority LLA can grant an off-licence

  • for a ‘main order’ source of supply for foodstuffs in an area, o Or
  • ‘an appropriate complement’ to the main business.

These exceptions mean this section gives rise to a lot of case law and a lot of fiddly decision making by the Liquor Licensing Authority. Examples are letting tourist shops sell bottles of wine in baskets gourmet NNZ food, or liqueur chocolates.

However, the underlying principle reflected in this clause is that, without being too rigid about it, the sale of liquor should be in the hands of responsible specialist businesses who will know about legal obligations, be responsible about sales to underage customers, and generally take alcohol seriously.

This is still a reasonable and responsible political position.

Petrol Stations
Continuing the prohibition on the sale of alcohol by businesses selling petrol is supported.
However, we note that the current Act was unable to prevent the grant of an off-licence to a large New Lynn off-licence in the same building as a petrol station, because it was a separate business. The alcohol is as handy as the free air hose.

This ‘neighbouring land use’ could not be taken into consideration, except in setting hours of trading. The changes that the Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit recommends to licence criteria and conditions would prevent such a situation.

No beer and spirits in supermarkets
Section S.37. Conditions of off-licences currently limits supermarkets, defined by size (S.36) to selling various types of wine, but not beer or spirits. It also stops off-licensed businesses selling on Sunday, Good Friday and Christmas Day.
The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports this limitation, which already represented a radical change with consequences for consumption patterns. The introduction of wine into New Zealand supermarkets was followed by a 17% increase in overall wine sales (Wagenaar & Langley 1995), and similar consequences may well result from the introduction of supermarket beer and spirits sales. From 1990 to 1995 there was an increasing trend for the availability of wine in supermarkets to be given as a reason for increased consumption by women (APHRU, unpublished).

The extension of supermarket sales to beer, spirits or alcoholic sodas would represent a considerable increase in availability and is likely to result in a similar increase in consumption. A key concern is that supermarkets are an easy source of alcohol for young people. This is a particular concern with regard to beer, which is more commonly drunk by heavy drinking males and by underage drinkers than is wine (Wyllie, Millard & Zhang 1996). Alcoholic sodas and branded mixed drinks with 6% alcohol by volume are directed specifically at the '18-25 year old convenience buyer' (Mowday 1995), and since the mid 1990s have been heavily promoted to young women.

Supermarkets easy source for minors
Very little enforcement attention is being given to off-licensed premises (Hill & Stewart 1996), although these are an important source of alcohol for drinkers in their mid-teens. The 1995 national survey showed wineshops, supermarkets and other off-licences to be an important source of alcohol for 14 to 17 year olds, as well as 18 to 19 year olds. Both groups met with little refusal, particularly in supermarkets (Wyllie, Millard & Zhang 1996). Strengthening penal provisions related to persons purchasing liquor on behalf of minors is also supported.
Sunday trading by ‘taverns’ and off-licences
Currently alcohol can be sold on Sundays with meals by licensed cafes and restaurants which open on Sundays, but not off-licensed outlets or ‘tavern’ style pubs or bars whose principle purpose of business is the sale of alcohol. (Also many nightclubs can trade on Sunday nights under ‘supervised’ on-licences because, strangely, in setting licence terms they were not viewed as simply late night bars.)
The proposal to introduce full Sunday trading by all types of licensed premises is not supported. It would be a increase alcohol availability to the general public through sales on what is a leisure day for most people. Research in other countries has associated Sunday trading with an increase in road crashes and other alcohol related harm. Sunday off-licence sales would extend the possibility of all-weekend binge drinking. Sunday closing, like a break in 24 hour availability of alcohol, may disrupt excessive drinking.

Although supermarkets are now open on Sundays for other products, allowing them to sell alcohol is considered by others in the industry to be giving supermarkets unfair advantage relative to other off-licences. However, extending Sunday trading to all off licensed premises would entail a considerable increase in the public availability of alcohol, and that availability would be continuous.

The symbolic force of the law in influencing the social climate for drinking in New Zealand should not be underestimated. Sunday closing is consistent with the aim of the Act 'to establish a reasonable system of control...contributing to the reduction of liquor abuse'.

Sunday trading in other countries
The introduction (or marked increase) in Sunday alcohol sales in Michigan, Perth, New South Wales, Victoria, Finland and Sweden resulted in increases in road death and injuries and/or violence (Smith 1988; Peberdy 1991). In New South Wales there were considerable increases in road deaths and injuries, despite alcohol already being available on Sundays in clubs.
Restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Sundays are the international norm. Many states and countries restrict Sunday liquor sales, partially or totally. Most Australian states do permit Sunday trading but with limited hours, usually opening around midday. In England, but not Wales and Monmouthshire, pubs open at lunchtime and in the evening on Sunday. In Scotland licensees may apply to open on Sundays, with grounds for refusal including undue disturbance or public nuisance. However, some parts of Australia and most Canadian provinces do not permit Sunday opening. Western Australia is similar to New Zealand with only private clubs serving alcohol on Sundays. In Manitoba, too, only clubs may serve liquor on Sundays, with meals and with kitchens fully operational. In Norway, the state monopoly liquor stores closed from 1 pm on Saturday, as well as Sunday, after a trial closure period in 1991 showed a decrease in assault rates, drunkenness, and domestic disturbances, without diminishing total liquor sales (Lenke 1984; Lindh 1988), although this decision later met with political reversal.
Sunday alcohol with meals only
The Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit supports the current Act and the legislative intention that alcohol shall be available on Sundays only for consumption with a meal. Case law has now established reasonable parameters for this requirement.
While some tavern-licensed premises may consider this requirement means licensed restaurants have an unfair market advantage, others have chosen to compete on the same ground, changing their style of business and licence type for at least some of their premises to licensed restaurant rather than bar. This shifts the focus of both profitability and patron behaviour away from alcohol alone.

Compliance by restaurants and clubs that may trade on Sunday needs to be supported by routine inspection. Practices in other countries suggest cost-effective ways this can be done. In both Manitoba and California, evidence of the satisfactory provision of meals, which alcohol may accompany, is provided by an adequate and fully functioning kitchen. 'Bona fide eating places' in California must provide evidence that not more than 40% of revenue comes from alcohol. In Manitoba restaurant chits are required to indicate food as well as alcohol for each customer, and can be monitored by inspectors. A number of states require a daily record of club guests as well as requirements aimed at preventing casual membership.

Clubs to sell to the public on Sundays
Licensed clubs may also sell alcohol on Sundays but these are currently restricted to serving members and guests. The proposal to repeal the club licence and replace it with an ordinary on-licence, unlikely to be restricted as a ‘tavern’, means that these venues would be selling to the public on Sundays.
Clause 24 proposing the repeal of sections of S 24 means that clubs could also hold off-licences, and with these changes to S.37 would sell takeaway alcohol on Sundays.

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