Greens happy for 'responsible bars' to open for rugby
The Green Party says it's in favour of letting pubs open for the Rugby World Cup, just not every single pub regardless of their reputation and history.
With hosts England on the other side of the world, games will screen here at rather inhospitable times, many falling just outside of the legal hours pubs are allowed to be open and selling alcohol.
Yesterday the Greens refused to grant leave to debate a Bill from ACT's David Seymour that would have allowed pubs to open between 4am and 8am and serve alcohol for the duration of the tournament.
Green spokesperson Kevin Hague called it a "ham-fisted attempt to be a man of the people" and that it would see drunk people flowing out onto the streets as others were trying to get to work or drop their kids off at school.
"David Seymour's Bill would have meant any bar, even ones that had repeatedly been in trouble with the police, [could] sell booze till 8am or 9am for every one of the 48 World Cup games, regardless of police or community concerns," says Mr Hague.
"If we hadn't denied leave, that Bill would be the one before Parliament now."
Currently bars have to apply for special licenses to open at odd hours, and Mr Hague says many have already done so. But with word the Government is looking at taking on Mr Seymour's Bill, Mr Hague says it's an opportunity to get the balance right and save local authorities a whole lot of paperwork.
"I love rugby and I love having a beer while I watch rugby with my friends, so I'm as keen as anyone to see responsible bars allowed to open to screen the important World Cup matches, but the law needs to be workable… The Government is much better-placed than a sole ACT MP to use Government legal and policy advisors to draft a more well-constructed Bill and then use the normal Parliamentary process to bring it to the House."
Hospitality Association CEO Bruce Robertson this morning told RadioLIVE the Greens' move yesterday was "disappointing", and he wants the Government to relax the rules for every one of the 48 matches – but Prime Minister John Key isn't so sure.
"The case is probably not quite as strong for a couple of countries that don't involve New Zealand in the pool round," he said on the Paul Henry programme this morning, adding that it might be decided on a bar-by-bar basis.
"Let's say you're on the North Shore of Auckland where there's a reasonably big South African population – those local bars in Takapuna, they'll probably apply for those games."
The Greens say there should be limits on bars near schools or that have a history of breaching liquor licensing rules.
Mr Key hinted the revised law may be restricted to matches involving the All Blacks and the knockout stages only.
"We'll have to think about what those rules look like because it's different for every bar – some close at one time, some close at another. In principle, one option which would not be unreasonable, for every All Black game for the quarters, the semis, the finals, maybe the playoff for third and fourth, all of those games we would have blanket coverage.
"If your normal license finishes at three o'clock and the game's at five, we're not going to make you close between three and five."
Whatever the Government comes up with, it probably won't be relying on the Greens' support to become law.
"We are open to supporting a Government measure that addresses our concerns," said Mr Hague.
Another reason the Greens cited for spiking yesterday's debate on Mr Seymour's Bill was that it would delay the passage of a number of private Member's Bills already drawn from the ballot on other topics.