Saturday 11 April 2015

The Health Veto

Police and DHB objections to individual liquor permits seem to be turning into a mechanism for the cops and the docs to impose their policy preferences more directly. Where the alcohol reform legislation didn't give them everything they wanted, and where local alcohol policies don't always give them what they wanted, the potential to hold up a licencee's permit can give them that power through the back door.

Beer snobbery has reached a new height in the capital, with a proposed bottle store granted a license only if it sticks to selling top-shelf brews.

And approval could signal a big change for buying a drink throughout the capital, as regulators seek to clamp down on selling cheap alcohol and "nudge" people away from binge drinking.

Plans to set-up a new off-license, to be known as Capital Craft Beer Co, on Manners St in Wellington were initially opposed by Police and Regional Public Heath during a district licensing committee hearing this morning.
However both the police and regional public health agreed to drop their opposition after the bottle store owner, James Tucker, agreed to sell only high quality alcohol and close at 9pm.
Were this to become a trend, it would be minimum alcohol unit pricing via a rather dubious process.

And if the allegations here are true, that's also rather worrying:
A bar owner fighting to keep his licence believed he was targeted by police because of his opposition to stricter alcohol laws, the Dunedin district licence committee heard. 
Dave Goosselink provides some relevant context.

The latest on this front comes from @Feminoptimal. Auckland DHB is opposing the liquor licence at a maternity hospital that caters to the posher end of the NZ market. Here's their current menu. Guests can come in and share a meal with the new mother and have a glass of wine. Very nice.

Feminoptimal writes:
So why is Birthcare maternity hospital having to fight to renew its liquor license?
An Auckland District Health Board spokeswoman said:”The medical officer of health is bringing this appeal because the evidence is clear that the consumption of alcohol harms unborn and newborn infants and considers that the decision to grant the licence to Birthcare is inconsistent with the alcohol legislation whose object is to minimise harm.”
So people having a meal at a maternity hospital – which could safely include new dads or other family members, as well as new mums that cannot breastfeed – can’t be trusted to drink responsibly. After all, responsibility is the core tenet of the liquor licensing guidelines:
Now the Auckland District Health Board has announced it will appeal the case further, to the High Court – despite police and the district licensing committee’s inspector expressing confidence that Birthcare is a responsible licensee.
In fact, decisions about licensing are supposed to be guided by potential impacts on the wider community, not just costs to the individual alcohol consumer. Could it be that Birthcare is already taking steps to ensure its patients are informed about the risks?
Birthcare general manager Ann Hanson defended the hospital’s longstanding policy of offering alcohol with meals.
“There’s a very big highlighted sign on the menu saying we recommend that those breastfeeding don’t drink alcohol,” she said.
So Birthcare is doing its bit to give its patients the best possible care and information (which is, in fact, its job as a hospital). The Police and licensing authority have done their bit in assessing any risks to the community from the hospital’s liquor license. But Auckland DHB just can’t leave it alone: a Message Must Be Sent about the evils of drinking, regardless of whether the law provides grounds for doing so.
Interesting that the police aren't supporting Auckland DHB's push in this case.

DHBs and Police have very large budgets, relative to any individual licensee, to tie things up. The threat of extended processes, or of extra-vigilant enforcement, gives them power to dictate licensing conditions just as the Presidential veto gives him power over some of the composition of the budget. Veto power is legislative power, within bounds.

Disclosure: I was expert witness on bar closing hours for the hospitality association in Wellington and in Tasman.

1 comment:

  1. More chilling effects. Uncomfortable.