Palmerston North no closer on closing time for city’s bars


Palmerston North is taking its time to decide when to call time for city bars and bottle stores.

David Unwin/Stuff

Palmerston North is taking its time to decide when to call time for city bars and bottle stores.

Palmerston North’s bars will have to wait until August to find out if their pleas to retain 3am closing times have been heard.

Earlier closing is the key feature of the city council’s proposed local alcohol policy.

However, development of the policy has been delayed by the Covid-19 crisis.

The city council heard submissions on its proposed policy to bring closing time for bars back an hour from 3am to 2am back in February.

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Palmerston North city pubs were back in business full on the first weekend of alert level 1 restrictions. Crowds enjoying the dance floor at The Daily.

David Unwin/Stuff

Palmerston North city pubs were back in business full on the first weekend of alert level 1 restrictions. Crowds enjoying the dance floor at The Daily.

Councillors were expected to deliberate on the submissions at the May meeting of its community development committee, but that was called off.

The item did not make it onto its July 1 order paper either, because staff involved in preparing the report had been seconded to the emergency response to the pandemic.

It is now expected to come to the committee’s August meeting.

Committee chairwoman Lorna Johnson said staff had given an undertaking they would meet that deadline.

“We can’t delay too much longer, because the submissions will become out of date.”

She said staff and councillors would also consider an update on the state of hospitality in the city, in light of the Covid-19 shutdown and its effects on businesses.

Bars were the last to benefit from the easing of restrictions on gatherings, opening with limited service in early May under alert level 2, but not back to business as usual until June.

Of more than 70 submissions the council received on the proposal for earlier closing, two-thirds were opposed.

Most of the opponents were bar owners and patrons, while many health groups encouraged the council to do anything it could to reduce alcohol harm.

Many of the bars had been involved in an experimental and voluntary 2am closing trial in 2017, and found it tough on business, while it did not discourage people from pre-loading at home before coming into town.

There were also more issues in the central city when patrons were forced to leave in unison at 2am instead of filtering out gradually.