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Owner in high spirits

Thirsty Liquor owner Raj Patel is relieved the Lansdowne store has finally had its liquor licence renewed. PHOTO/FILE

Regional Public Health withdraws bid to shut Lansdowne liquor store
Liquor store can keep on trading

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

Thirsty Liquor’s liquor licence has been renewed after the party opposing it agreed to further discussions.

In February, the Times-Age reported the Lansdowne store’s licence application had been opposed by Regional Public Health in the hopes of reducing the amount of alcohol-related harm in the area.

However, RPH has since withdrawn its opposition after a joint memorandum of counsel was agreed.

The Masterton District Licensing Committee received the memorandum on June 15 requesting the formal hearing on the matter to be cancelled, after RPH’s medical officer of health and Thirsty Liquor owners agreed to have quarterly meetings.

The decision made public by the committee said it was likely these meetings would focus on the issue of patients receiving alcohol detoxification treatment at Wairarapa Hospital and the store’s proximity to the hospital, which was the principal driver for RPH’s opposition to the licence.

“In his evidence the medical officer of health, Dr Stephen Palmer, expressed concern at the close proximity that Thirsty Liquor is to the hospital.

“At any one time the Wairarapa Hospital will have inpatients that are particularly vulnerable, and some may be recovering from an alcohol dependency disorder.

“Also, some patients attending outpatient services are likely to be similarly vulnerable.

“He states that ‘the liquor store is just too conveniently located.”

RPH’s alcohol regulatory officer noted Thirsty Liquor owner Raj Patel appeared to be aware of the concerns around the hospital, but said his response when interviewed was insufficient to mitigate concerns.

The officer recommended the licence application be declined or the business’ hours reduced, however, the committee disagreed.

“There was no reason to doubt the suitability of the applicant. He appeared to be aware of the appropriate systems and training to comply with the law,” the decision read.

Patel, who had owned the store for almost 10 years, said the decision was a relief, as even the proposed reduction in hours would have harmed his business.

RPH had previously proposed the Te Ore Ore Rd store’s off-licence should end at 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

“It was really early in the bottle store industry,” Patel said.

While he accepted the concerns around the hospital’s proximity, he said it was difficult to tell whether his customers had come from the hospital or not.

“If they’re not wearing the hospital dress, it’s quite hard to guess,” he said, saying it was also difficult to know whether other people were buying alcohol for hospital patients.

“I don’t know how we can work it out,” Patel said.

“Whatever we can do, we will try to do.”

While the first meeting with RPH had yet to take place, he was hopeful the discussions would lead to a solution “in a way that is not harming me or harming them”.

“At the moment, it’s new,” Patel said.

“It’s a big question mark what we will talk about. It’s a good step that I can work with them.”

Thirsty Liquor’s licence application was not opposed by the police or the council’s chief licensing inspector.

This was not the first time the store had encountered issues when applying for its liquor licence – at its last renewal three years ago, its licensed hours were changed from 7am-11pm to 9am-10pm, cutting out three hours of sales a day.

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