Liquor store, bar owners concerned for their businesses if proposed alcohol laws go through

Liquor store owners are concerned for the future of their businesses if proposed changes to alcohol laws go through.

Justice Minister Kiri Allan announced on Sunday there will be amendments to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, which will remove the ability to appeal local alcohol policies (LAPs).

The current appeal process is costing councils and ratepayers millions in legal fees, as alcohol companies and supermarkets have thwarted efforts by local councils to limit the sale of alcohol in their communities, Allan said.

A Bill proposing procedural changes to the alcohol licensing process will be introduced this year, with the aim of passing it into law by mid-next year, which could make it easier for communities to have a say over how booze sales are regulated in their area.

Business owners told AM on Monday they agree the current law needs reform but they are concerned about what it could mean for their operations.

"A stoppage on more licences being issued is probably a good thing. There are already a lot of outlets selling liquor be it supermarkets, liquor stores," liquor store owner Ash Parmar told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"But it's the vagueness and the entry into talking about opening hours and having the stores closed at certain times during school times. That concerns me as a business owner because how far could they take it, and removing the ability for business owners to appeal is very concerning because, at the end of the day, we still have a business to run and remain profitable." 

Parmar said liquor stores around the country will see their bottom lines affected if the proposed new laws pass. 

"It will hit every business in that way and litigation and being able to appeal a process done by a central government or counsel is a great pillar of democracy," Parmar said.

"If you remove that, how are you supposed to operate if you can't get feedback and you can't have a discussion." 

Appearing on AM alongside Parmar, hospitality business owner Matt McLaughlin said the proposed Bill will have a big impact on small family-run businesses. 

"I think democracy being taken away is a big issue and it does have an impact. The majority of hospitality operators, we're not big business," Mclaughlin said.  

"We're not the big booze industry. We're small, mostly family-run businesses and being able to have an appeal process I think is really important."

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick wants to see alcohol treated similarly to smoking.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick wants to see alcohol treated similarly to smoking. Photo credit: AM

But Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick believes it's time to change the culture of drinking in New Zealand.

Swarbrick told AM the core of the problem is money and advertising, and if the country can change that, then we'll only see positive outcomes. 

"Alcohol is the most harmful drug at a macro level that we have in our country, either legal or illegal. Eighty percent of New Zealanders drink and as I've just said, one-fifth of us drink hazardously," Swarbrick said.  

"How do we tackle that? We have to tackle it both by looking at our culture and our culture is very heavily influenced by the tens of millions of dollars that the alcohol industry spends on advertising to glamorise and normalise this stuff." 

Swarbrick wants to see alcohol treated similarly to smoking, which has changed significantly over the last 20 years. 

"If you think about how we've pulled a number of levers with tobacco and there are some really controversial ones in there, the likes of pricing, but also availability and advertising and sponsorship," she said. 

"We have seen an impact on the cultural norms around smoking, but also those rules and regulations which together have produced lower smoking rates."