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The Press-News Column June 2

In defence of the city’s nightlife.

Does the city council want to knock the stuffing out of the central city’s fledgling post-quake nightlife scene?  Is New Zealand’s second largest city set to have  a strangulated entertainment scene,  neutered by power-tripping nanas? Or will common-sense prevail? The business end of the city council’s provisional Local Alcohol Policy (LAP)  is about to roar into life, and some proposals ( which were framed by the previous council), clearly need recalibrating. Now that the LAP has been notified, for the next 30 days, any of the 5000 submitters to the original draft LAP, can register their desire to participate in the appeal process.  It’s only now that the real arm-wrestling and negotiating can play out, with the council fully at liberty to modify its proposals, before submitting its final LAP plan to the licensing authority hearing. There is much to the city’s LAP that enjoys broad public support, particularly the wing-clipping of off-licence sales. The LAP will give communities the muscle to meaningfully contest an off-licence invader in their neighbourhood.  And given supermarkets and bottle stores account for roughly 80% of all alcohol sales, restricting their trading hours to 9am to 9pm, is reasonable. After all, they are the power plyers of the pre-loaders and out-of-control parties.  The bully-boy supermarket barons previously threatened to close all their supermarkets if they couldn’t sell booze around the clock, but that’s proven to have been pure bluster and flannel , with a 9am to 9pm trading regime becoming the new normal, nationwide.  Our council is also keen to roll back on-licence trading hours,  with a  1am close for suburban bars. In the great majority of cases that’s absolutely reasonable – but  not all. In the face of disaster, the Lincoln Road and Victoria Street precincts, gallantly led the revival of the city’s hospitality scene, on the CBD fringe. Given the insatiable popularity of these pioneering precincts,  nobbling them with a 1am shutdown is draconian. They should be treated as central city hospitality haunts, with the same closing time.  Auckland’s model is the exemplar, where the Ponsonby and K Road precincts, along with the central city, have all been accorded a 4am closing time. But the most misguided and indefensible aspect to Christchurch’s provisional LAP is the 1am lockout.  Straight-jacketing the central city with a 1am one-way door policy, reeks of puritan excess. It is completely out of step with our metropolitan brothers, up north. Neither Auckland or Wellington are implementing the one-way approach. Unless we we’d prefer monstrous Facebook-generated house parties to spiral across suburbia, neither should we.

Mike’s weekly current affairs column, first published in The Press. June 2.

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