The chaotic scenes following the aftermath of Crate Day antics on Queenstown’s Village Green were a “disaster waiting to happen”, according to Hospitality NZ (HNZ).
Drew Harmer, Hospitality New Zealand’s Central Otago Branch President, says “Messy and impromptu events like this have been an issue for a number of years and always had the potential of getting out of control, if left unchecked.”
Consequently, HNZ is fully supportive of a year-round total liquor ban in the CBD, reinforcing the stance of Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult, and believe the events of December 3 were simply “the catalyst for change that Council needed to see.”
“Whilst this impromptu Village Green party was disappointing, quite frankly we aren’t surprised by what happened. This was an unofficial, non-advertised event that quickly spiralled into a massive turnout in the heart of town. The Council and Police were kept completely in the dark about its existence. Like Mayor Jim Boult, we are also advocating a complete liquor ban in the CBD area, to ensure something like this never happens again.”
“As an industry body, we consistently reinforce drinking responsibly. An incident like this would never have occurred in licenced and controlled premises,” adds Mr Harmer.
Currently, there is no all year-round liquor ban for the Village Green and liquor bans are put in place at 10.00pm. However, HNZ believes this doesn’t do much to alleviate the situation.
“At that time of the night the 300-strong crowd were already intoxicated, so the horse had well and truly bolted by then.”
A permanent liquor ban has been tabled for discussion at a meeting police are seeking with Queenstown Lakes District Council, which was due to occur this week.
“We aren’t here to be the fun police, but it isn’t a good look for the town, especially seeing the mess that was left behind on Sunday morning. Where on earth could you gather like that to drink crates of booze in an uncontrolled environment?”
“We have consistently said that bars are part of the solution, not the problem because restaurants and bars are heavily supervised and monitored. Hospitality operators face serious consequences for not enforcing the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. We don’t want to be inadvertently tarnished with the same bad brush and grouped in the same camp as events like this,” he adds.
HNZ does acknowledge that a complete year-round liquor ban in the CBD will have unintended consequences, however the onus will be on the Council to draft the policy appropriately.
“Unfortunately, it’s the actions of a small minority that are ruining it for the majority who know how to drink responsibly. People will wring their hands about taking away the liberties of sensible people who wish to enjoy a glass of wine or enjoy a beer while watching a local rugby game at the park. This is not what we want. But, it will be up to the how the Council words the policy.”
“What the Mayor is suggesting is not ground breaking, as total liquor bans are already happening overseas. You don’t see hundreds of people getting drunk in public places in other parts of the world. We are just catching up to international protocol.” he adds.
Queenstown attracts more than 2.9 million visitors each year and ranked as the number one tourist destination in the South Pacific for TripAdvisor last year.
“Events and festivals are part of the town’s lifeblood, as well as our word-class entertainment and attractions. However such antics were totally unacceptable and had the potential to damage the reputation of this great destination.” he concludes.