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Tragedy A Wake-Up Call For Bar Managers And Owners

Tragedy A Wake-Up Call For Bar Managers And Owners

Bar owners and bar managers have to take responsibility for what happens on their premises, says the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC).

ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy says the death of a young patron after injuries suffered in a game of bull rush at a Palmerston North bar was a tragedy for the young man’s family and friends.

“But the big worry is that his behaviour that night was more a symptom of a broader problem across New Zealand than an isolated incident that caused this particular tragedy,” says Dr MacAvoy.

“In my mind, two things let that young man down that night. One was the culture of binge drinking in New Zealand that led these young people to aspire to become intoxicated in the first place. But we do have a culture like that, so we need laws to protect people as best we can until we see a change. The second let down was the law. Serving intoxicated people on licensed premises is illegal so he should have been protected by the law that night.”

Dr MacAvoy says he hopes this incident serves as a wake-up call for all bar managers and owners and emphasises the need for them to fulfil their obligations as licence holders.

“Bar owners and managers need to be vigilant and keep a watch on their patrons. In this case, the four young men involved were being served at least four tray lots of 16 double bourbons and any responsible manager should have been alerted to the possibility of harm resulting.”

Dr MacAvoy was commenting following an inquest yesterday into the death of William Cranswick, 19, who died after injuries suffered in a game of bull rush at The Fitz bar in Palmerston North in September 2003. He had been drinking with a group of three friends. At an earlier Liquor Licensing Authority Hearing, which took away the general manager’s licence, the authority said the group were ordering drinks by the tray each consisting of 16 double bourbons and coke.

Coroner Graham Hubbard said he would make recommendations regarding the sale of liquor. The recommendations would focus on the suitability of selling tray loads of drinks to customers; allowing physical contact sports to be played in public bars; and improving the training given to bar managers so they were all aware that any injuries should be reported.

Dr MacAvoy says ALAC looks forward to seeing the coroner’s recommendations.

ALAC had been working with the Justice Department and the industry on a new Licence Controller qualification which was due to come into force later this year.

“This qualification places the emphasis on ensuing that bar managers not only know the theory behind host responsibility but can also put it into practice. All bar managers will eventually have to upgrade to this qualification to obtain or renew their general manager’s licence.”

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