Liquor shops draw short straw

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A Queenstown booze baron’s hoping a change to the country’s alcohol laws will make it easier for liquor stores selling smokes.

Beaver Liquor boss Russell Gray – also the Hospitality New Zealand Auckland chairman – says last month’s amendment to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act for grocery stores should apply to liquor shops, as well.

Last year Beaver – which owns all the Betty’s Liquor stores in Queenstown – had to jump through hoops to keep its licences after finding itself a guinea pig under the new legislation.

To comply with the Act, at least 85 per cent of the annual revenue from stores like Betty’s has to come from booze sales.

But, when cigarette excise tax was added in to the Betty’s numbers, all but one of its liquor stores failed to meet the test.

For every pack of durries sold, the government clips the ticket to the tune of 61 per cent.

Beaver argued that should be deducted from the sales figures, but that didn’t fly with the district’s licensing committee.

Instead they had to revert to a previous business model and, to meet the threshold, reduce the selection of cigarettes in every store.

Gray says: “Because Betty’s are in high-profile, high pedestrian-count tourist areas, they sell a lot of cigarettes and that is what was causing the issue.

“It is an unintended conse-quence [of the Act].”

The government had another crack at the legislation earlier this year and decided grocery stores with off-licences could deduct the excise tax from annual sales figures.

Because licensing authorities have been using the “grocery” formula to assess applications for grocery stores with off-licences, Gray says it should apply to liquor shops too.

“A liquor store shouldn’t be penalised for collecting tax for the government.”

ed@scene.co.nz