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ALAC Frustrated at LLA Decision

ALAC Frustrated at LLA Decision
PRESS RELEASE
14 DECEMBER 2006

The Alcohol Advisory Council is frustrated at the penalty handed down to the liquor licence holder at Wellington’s Westpac stadium after it was caught selling alcohol to minors.

Spotless Services NZ Limited, which holds the liquor licence for the stadium, will avoid any suspension of its liquor licence as long as it holds an alcohol-free event at the stadium over the next 12 months.

In July this year a controlled purchase operation (CPO) was carried out at the Westpac stadium during the All Black versus South Africa rugby test. A 16-year-old male volunteer attempted to buy alcohol at 10 outlets in the stadium. He was able to buy alcohol on five occasions from five different outlets, purchasing nine small bottles of beer over a period of one and a half hours.

Staff from Spotless operated two of the outlets that sold the alcohol; another three outlets were operated by fundraising organisations.

The police took the company to the Liquor Licensing Authority (LLA) seeking a suspension or cancellation of its liquor licence. However, in a just released decision, the LLA has said it would be prepared to waive a suspension of the company’s liquor licence if it organises or sponsors an alcohol- free event at the stadium within the next 12 months. However, it did suspend the general manager’s certificate for one month.

The company gave an indication that it would be prepared to sponsor an event such as a three-course lunch for invited guests to publicise the 2007 Regional Community Awards, to comply with the sanction recommended by the Authority.

ALAC acting Chief Executive Officer Sandra Kirby questioned whether the penalty was sufficient given the seriousness of the offence.

“A suspension of Spotless Services' licence for a period when a similar sort of event (i.e. an international sporting fixture) was on would serve as a warning to other large venues.”

The Wellington Regional Stadium Trust gave evidence that they would have to reconsider the company’s appointment as its exclusive caterer if the LLA suspended its licence. It said there would also be potential contractual issues and it would be a difficult process to find an operator with the required experience and critical mass.

Wellington City Councillor I D McKinnon and the Wellington Chair of the New Zealand Hotel Council C W Parkin also gave evidence to the LLA. They stressed the effects the imposition of any enforcement order would have on the stadium’s position as a major economic driver for the city and the region, as well as the city’s reputation and the potential impact of any enforcement order on Wellington’s tourism and hospitality industry.

Ms Kirby said this created a dilemma and undoubtedly could have far reaching consequences that went beyond Spotless Services and the stadium but people needed to understand the seriousness of the issue.

Ms Kirby said the LLA itself acknowledged the principle that ‘a (liquor) licence should be easy to get and easy to lose’. Other outlets that have been found to be selling to minors during CPOs have suffered such a fate despite the economic impact.

“Perhaps this principle does not hold sway in certain circumstances.”

ENDS

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