Queenstown publicans are barring up over Easter drinking restrictions they claim are outdated and visitor-unfriendly.
Under New Zealand law, due to Easter’s religious significance, you can’t drink in pubs on Good Friday and Easter Sunday unless you’re there to dine, and you can’t buy take-home booze.
“Why are we still abiding by these outdated religious laws?” restaurant/bar owner Cameron Mitchell asks. “We’re a multicultural society where a lot of people don’t identify as being religious.”
But local Presbyterian minister Ian Guy believes the Easter restrictions serve a purpose that’s broader than religion.
“Personally, I believe it’s healthy for any society to have times during the year when we take the focus off retail and commercial activity and take time to reflect upon other matters.”
Mitchell believes NZ’s lagging behind the rest of the world, noting even Ireland – “there’s a very religious country” – lifted Easter booze restrictions this year.
“Stopping at midnight [those two nights], that’s a pain – even allowing us to go through till 2.30am would be helpful.”
Hospo boss Russell Gray says “the laws around trading on sacrosanct days need to be reviewed – it’s very confusing for members of the public, let alone tourists”.
“If businesses want to open and meet the costs of penal rates because they believe there’s demand, they should be able to.”
Local bar baron Mike Burgess points out Queenstown’s long had an exemption to allow Easter retail trading, “so where does the differential lie?”
Mayor Jim Boult personally believes the legislation has likely reached its “use-by date”.
“My personal view is, if you’re going to have a drink with a meal, what’s the difference between that and having a drink?”
However he believes “sometimes we don’t take enough notice of what Easter is about”.