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Liquorless in Lansdowne?

Thirsty Liquor owner Raj Patel says locals will just get their alcohol from the supermarket down the road instead. PHOTO/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

Residents could go thirsty as liquor licence opposed
Lansdowne worst for alcohol harm

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

Regional Public Health is opposing the liquor licence of a Lansdowne liquor store because of high rates of alcohol-related harm in the suburb.

RPH medical officer of health Dr Stephen Palmer said a key objective of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act was to ensure “the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised”.

“Renewing this licence would not help to minimise alcohol-related harm in this community. Our objection is not based around the proximity to a hospital.”

Thirsty Liquor owner Raj Patel said it was proposed the store’s off-licence should end at 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

“It will definitely impact the business,” Patel said.

“Every person knows that Friday and Saturday are the most popular days for drinking.

“Alcohol-related harm needs to be cut down and because of that they’re trying to cut down the hours, and that is fair enough. If they need to cut down the hours, they need to cut down the busy hours.

“But the way I see it, one place cut down? It’s not fair.”

The store on Te Ore Ore Rd, was out of the town centre, not on a highway, and sold much less liquor than the supermarket a two-minute drive away, Patel said.

“Business-wise, if other people are going to be selling … that way is not good,” he said, “They can still go to the other store and buy it.”

This was not the first time the store had encountered issues when applying for its liquor licence – at its last renewal three years ago, Masterton District Council told Patel the store needed to change its paint job and reduce its hours.

“Last time it was a renewal they said to change the colour,” he said, “It was just too bright.”

The store had been orange, the colour associated with the Thirsty Liquor franchise. It was then painted over with black, at Patel’s expense. Its licensed hours were changed from 7am-11pm to 9am-10pm, cutting out three hours of sales a day.

Patel took the changes on the chin, saying he often did not stay open until 10pm anyway, especially in winter.

“Whatever is the requirement, we’ll try to do it,” he said, “Nothing is in my hands.”

He had owned the store for almost 10 years and faced no objections to this application from police or the district council, he said.

While he understood the seriousness of ARH, he said it would be more effective if all liquor vendors were expected to abide by the same rules.

“If everyone has to apply,” Patel said, “Then maybe they can achieve something.”

A council spokesperson said the council would not comment before a hearing was held. It was hoped a date for the public hearing could be set in the next month.

In its letter of opposition, RPH stated the area had the highest hospital admissions for ARH in Masterton and ranked 11th in the greater Wellington region.

“It must be remembered that hospital admissions represent the tip of a much larger iceberg that represents the total level of ARH in any community,” the letter stated.

“We know that more than three-quarters of all alcohol consumed in New Zealand is obtained from an off-licence and, given that this is the only liquor store in this suburb, the renewal of this licence is unlikely to minimise ARH in this suburb.”

Lansdowne’s high levels of ARH were linked to the vulnerability of the population, it stated, as just over half of its residents lived in neighbourhoods with high deprivation levels.

“Just under one-fifth of the population is Maori; The standardised hospital admission rates for ARH are high for acute for alcohol-related injuries and acute alcohol intoxication; Out of four Controlled Purchase Operations this premises failed one in November 2017; This liquor store is highly visible, which promotes the advertising of alcohol.”

Although Palmer said the proximity of Wairarapa Hospital, which was across the road, was not a cause for objection, the letter noted the store’s proximity to “a number of sensitive sites”, which included the hospital and other medical facilities, churches, rest homes, schools, day-cares and kindergartens.

“Being located in a residential area and next door to a dairy will inevitably place unhealthy pressure on vulnerable groups such as children and young people, and those with alcohol dependency problems who shop at the dairy or pass by.”

Aside from this application, the most recent licence opposed by RPH in Wairarapa was The New Superstore in 2015, Palmer said.

At the latest council meeting held last Wednesday, chief executive Kath Ross acknowledged alcohol licensing was one area where the council was struggling to keep up with demand.

Wairarapa District Health Board treated 190 people for ARH in the 2019/20 financial year.

ARH included alcohol poisoning, mental health issues relating to alcohol, injuries caused by people who had alcohol in their system to themselves or others, and other health issues


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