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No overcrowding in paradise this summer

No overcrowding in paradise this summer

Auckland City Council wants to make sure the city’s nightclubs and bars are safe for the public this summer by working with facility owners and their management to comply with all the necessary regulations.

With the rise in end of year celebrations expected, the council is concerned about overcrowding - a key issue often overlooked, even more so at this time of the year.

Geoff Atherfold, the council’s team leader for compliance monitoring, says, “While the council wants everyone to enjoy themselves, it’s timely and paramount in terms of public safety to remind nightclub and bar owners of their legal obligations under the various acts and licences.”

New Zealand Fire Service safety officers have worked with the council since late last year on building compliance, particularly with respect to fire safety and overcrowding in light of the number of nightclub disasters overseas. These disasters could have been easily avoided and the council’s employed extra inspectors at night to proactively help with weekly monitoring of facilities.

Mr Atherfold also notes: “There’ll always be a small minority who don’t comply, but the consequences are serious enough that if an emergency does occur, licensees could be faced with charges of manslaughter. If duty managers play their part, we all win.”

Of particular note was a case recently involving the Paradise Restaurant and Bar in Auckland’s busy Karangahape Road. The council and Fire Service officers called on the police to evict patrons from the premises on the grounds of public safety after an overcrowding incident in April this year. The maximum number allowed was 50 but the council building inspectors were extremely concerned when they estimated more than 150 were inside.

The council pursued the matter through the Liquor Licensing Authority and was successful in having the on-licence and a general manager’s license suspended for 10 days from Monday, 10 November to Thursday, 20 November 2003.

The Authority concluded it was an unusual application in that the predominant concern was the safety of patrons rather than liquor abuse. The allegations regarding the breach of the Act concerned, go to the heart of the terms of the licence as well as the object of the Act, whereby a reasonable system of control over the sale of liquor is required.

The council was pleased with the outcome of the decision, reinforcing the “step up” in service its compliance team has taken over the past year. It also allowed the council to send a strong message to other nightclub and bar owners.

“If building compliance and liquor licensing conditions are going to be compromised, then the council will act within its powers to ensure they are properly enforced,” says Mr Atherfold.

The council has also been working in partnership with Safer Auckland City on initiatives such as “Liquor Accords” with various inner-city bars and nightclubs. The accords are being set up to assist licensees with training and education responsibilities about various acts to ensure everyone – the council, patrons and licensees are happy.

For more information about liquor licensing, visit http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/liquor

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