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Hospitality Industry Calls On The Minister Of Justice To Make Emergency Law Change

Members of the hospitality industry have written to Minister of Justice Hon. Andrew Little to call for urgent changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (2012), using the provisions set out in the Epidemic Preparedness Act (2006). MP for Wellington Central and Minister of Finance, Hon. Grant Robertson and Minister of Economic Development Hon. Phil Twyford have also been invited to show their support.

The letter asks the Minister of Justice, as the Minister responsible for the Sale and Supply of Alcoholic Act (2012) to present an Order in Council to the Governor-General to make changes to the Act, expedited by the Epidemic Preparedness Act. The letter proposes an Order in Council to temporarily allow current On-Licence holders the ability to apply for emergency Off-Licences in a declared state of emergency so that they can trade in a heavily restricted trading environment.

Tough times ahead for the industry at Level 3

Before Covid-19, the hospitality industry employed more than 133,000 people in over 18,000 restaurants, bars and food outlets, generating annual sales in excess of $11 billion. Without central Government support, such as this law change, it has been estimated that up to 30% of these businesses will permanently shut and at least 30% of these jobs will be lost.

“Covid-19 has created a completely new trading environment that is likely to last some time,” says Rigby. At Level 3, public spaces are closed and only contactless deliveries, and perhaps takeaway sales, will be the only trading permitted.Even at Levels 1 and 2 social distancing measures continue and the hospitality industry is prevented from returning to pre-Covid levels of trade.

Hospitality businesses are contemplating not opening at all at Level 3 because the increased costs of opening could be greater than the revenue they can generate from contactless food and non-alcoholic beverage sales. In many instances, landlords are making less concessions at Level 3 making Level 3 a very dangerous time for the hospitality industry. “We are calling for this licence change to ensure businesses do not travel even further backwards,” Rigby says.

The Government needs to follow Australia’s lead

New Zealand is one of the few countries to completely shut down the hospitality industry for the duration of the Level 4 restrictions. While we support priority being placed on public health, it is now time to ensure the hospitality industry can survive the restrictions that have been put in place. Licence changes to allow licensed restaurants, cafes and bars to sell alcohol through contactless sales during the Covid-19 epidemic have been make throughout Australia. “It would be callous of the New Zealand Government to enforce stricter trading rules on the industry at Level 4 and then not provide support in the form of licensing changes before we transition to Level 3 and beyond,” Rigby says.

States in Australia that have already put these changes in place:

Currently not a level playing field

If made, this licence change will kick-start hospitality industry’s recovery. If the Government does nothing, many hospitality businesses that rely on alcohol sales alongside their food sales will be put in jeopardy and will not see revenue return through contactless sales or be able to cover their costs. This will not be a level playing field for businesses, as many off-licenced businesses have been trading throughout Level 4 as 'essential services' and the Government will not be ensuring the economic impact of these restrictions has been minimised.

“This change is not an attempt to promote the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, but an emergency measure to ensure that responsible licence holders can continue to offer alcoholic beverages with meals or a sensible amount of alcohol, by way of contactless delivery, while social distancing orders are in place. This change promotes the sensible consumption of alcohol and not high-volume purchasing currently available through other channels,” Rigby says.

Public, industry and political support

There is growing public and industry support for this change. A petition was started on this subject and has generated the support of over 2,930 members of the public in a week, at this time (http://chng.it/vFPtM49M).

The Wellington City Council has pledged its support, “We are also responding to the call for emergency Off-licences to be made available for bars and cafes. We are asking the government to change laws to allow this to happen. This is the only way many businesses will be able to trade at Level 3, but it also helps at any level below that,” said Wellington City Mayor Andy Foster.

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