Queenstown bar barons say resort visitors are missing out because of Jesus.
Bars and clubs are forbidden from selling alcohol to non-dining patrons on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Many venues choose not to open at all, while others work around the law by opening on the dot of midnight.
Mountain Scene revealed Queenstown cocktail nightspot Bunker as a flashpoint for the liquor debate, after owner Cam Mitchell was refused a special licence to trade without serving food despite plans to bring in high-profile DJs from around the country.
Mitchell estimated he’s going to lose $45,000 in revenue and accused the local District Licensing Committee of being out of touch.
Queenstown licensee Barry Ellis – who owns Pig & Whistle and Monty’s – says it’s visitors who miss out.
“The whole Easter thing is beyond a joke,” Ellis says.
“It’s not about the locals, it’s about looking after our tourists – they’ve come here for a holiday.”
Ellis points to the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow as an example of how the laws harm tourism: “It brings all these people in, some stay in Queenstown too, then they close everything. That’s just ridiculous.”
Monty’s and the Pig will operate as “basically a restaurant” for the two days, he says.
Pig & Whistle hosts the Blues and Roots Festival busking competition final on Saturday, but will close at midnight rather than its usual 2.30am, Ellis says, rather than go through the rigmarole of applying for a special licence.
Fellow licensee Mike Burgess, whose empire comprises The Ballarat Trading Co, Winnies, Buffalo Club, Bar Up and Zephyr, may have snared the only special licence for Easter – to host Queenstown Bike Festival’s closing party at Winnies this Sunday – but says it’s time to re-assess the law: “I think in 2014 we have to look at whether closing on religious holidays is necessary.”
Burgess will open his haunts at midnight on the religious holidays.
Mitchell’s application for a four-night Easter music licence was opposed by police and local Medical Officer of Health Derek Bell who said it didn’t meet criteria and hearings weren’t an “opportunity to rewrite the law”.
Some bar owners are prepared to just work with the restrictions.
Skybar’s Daniel Taiaroa opened at midnight on Friday/Saturday for a gig by drum and bass hot-shots State of Mind.
“We were late getting State of Mind confirmed so our application was rejected for being past the deadline,” Taiaroa says.
“But we’re a late-night venue and don’t usually get going until 10.30pm anyway.
“Since I’ve been in hospitality there’s been no trading on Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and before 1pm on Anzac Day. It’s par for the course.”