Why Otago University students reckon cheaper bars would encourage safe drinking

Otago University student leaders want the Government's help to encourage a return to drinking in controlled environments like bars.

They're keen to see changes around pricing to discourage young people from loading up on cheap alcohol from supermarkets and liquor stores.

The days of dollar-drink promotions are long gone, but the cost of drinking in bars is too much to swallow for many young people.

The Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) has asked the Dunedin City Council (DCC) to help change the alcohol laws at this week's annual plan hearings.

"Encouragement for the DCC to lobby central Government to reduce the minimum cost that bars must charge for alcohol, which would allow bars to serve cheaper alcohol, which would move students back from flat parties," said OUSA education officer Will Dreyer.

Students are fuelling up on cheap alcohol from supermarkets and liquor stores, but the OUSA wants to see a return to the old days of drinking in regulated environments like bars.

It's even bought its own bar, re-launching Starters as a safe option close to campus.

"Encouraging students to actually drink in safe place. Places like bars have water, they have security guards, they're safe places for students to drink, rather than heightened prices potentially pushing them to other locations," said OUSA President James Heath.

Bars are under pressure, with increased wages and health and safety costs.

Alcohol promotions are not allowed to encourage excessive drinking and operators face competition from cheap booze in stores.

"That's where the concern has come, that there is such a disparity now between buying some beers at home or going to an on-premise environment," said Hospitality NZ Otago President Mark Scully.

Alcohol laws were last reformed under the National Government, but with no reviews planned cheap beer at the pub for now is off the table.