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Karaoke bars leading to more harm in Auckland

A profusion of karaoke bars are leading to more incidences of alcohol related harm in Auckland

Karaoke bars in Auckland are leading to excessively heavy drinking and alcohol-related violence, delegates at the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) Conference were told yesterday.

The theme of the conference is ‘Time for Action’, with a focus on working together to create sustainable changes in the way New Zealanders think about and use alcohol.

Mr Gary Whittle of the New Zealand Police Liquor Licensing Unit in Auckland City presented on the recent rise in popularity of karaoke bars in and around Auckland city centre - predominantly used by members of the Asian immigrant population.

He says while here in New Zealand we associate karaoke bars with wannabe stars getting a chance to shine, the Asian model is very different.

“These issues are arising largely through cultural differences. Asian drinking culture revolves around karaoke bars where heavy drinking of hard liquor is the norm.

“Most of the 14 karaoke bars in Auckland City which hold liquor licenses have run foul of our licensing laws within their first year of operation. For example, some establishments have been selling full size bottles of hard liquor to patrons.

“The introduction of this style of drinking has led to a worrying increase in severe intoxication, grievous assaults and other alcohol-related violence.”

The bars offer individual karaoke rooms which patrons usually hire for the night. Mr Whittle says they are ideal for clandestine meetings of those involved in organised crime and high-level drug dealing.

“Meetings can be held and connections made in a private environment with no questions asked.”

Mr Whittle says other areas need to plan for what could become an issue for their communities in the future.

“Strategies we are using in Auckland include implementing a re-education programme for existing licenses, delivered using the Mandarin and Cantonese languages. This ensures licence holders clearly understand their obligations under our licensing laws. We’re also enabling a greater police presence at many of these bars.

“It might only be a matter of time before these bars start popping up in other areas of New Zealand and communities need to be prepared to deal with any related issues quickly and efficiently.”

ENDS

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