RWC booze blitz

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Rugby World Cup troublemakers face blanket bans by Queenstown bars.

The move comes in a new Queenstown Lakes District Council initiative dubbed “Bar Safe”, starting next Thursday.

Twenty-two bars will kit out bouncers in high-visibility vests labelled “Security”.

When patrons are ejected, the word will go out around the bar network so troublemakers are refused entry elsewhere.

While Bar Safe kicks off with the RWC, it will be a permanent fixture in QLDC’s high-priority drive to combat late-night booze problems.

Mayor Vanessa van Uden: “We’re not a party town, that’s not how we sell ourselves. We don’t need that perception out there in the wider world and we need to be dealing with it.”

Other measures being considered include long-­term bans for troublemakers, free late-night buses and walkie-talkies for the bouncer network, Van Uden says.

Van Uden is spearheading her council’s booze blitz after QLDC last week voted to prioritise “formulating a robust alcohol policy”.

“Bar Safe is just the first step in a whole lot of options and ideas,” she says.

Lakes Environmental booze-licensing boss Lee Webster says seven CBD bars are yet to sign the Bar Safe pledge: “I think they’ll automatically come on board once they see the benefits.”

At midnight, about 40 Bar Safe bouncers will don yellow high-visibility vests, he says, so with QLDC’s community wardens and police patrols also wearing luminous clothing, “it’ll give the impression of an awful lot of security people in an enforcement capacity all of a sudden”.

Drinkers will think twice about “peeing up against a shop doorway”, he hopes.

Van Uden says the Alcohol Reform Bill now before Parliament gives councils the option of strengthening the new law by adding a homegrown booze policy. She personally favours a free bus between midnight and 4am to take boozers home.

“We eject them from the bars and what do they do then? We know we’ve got issues when people queue for taxis, that’s one of the areas where fights start and things happen.

“Let’s not just move the party onto the street,” Van Uden says.

Webster wants walkie-talkies for Bar Safe bouncers and is also investigating the Bar Safe network imposing longer-term bans on known troublemakers.

To avoid saddling ratepayers and bar owners with extra costs, Van Uden and Webster will seek funding from ACC and the Ministry of Justice.

However, Van Uden predicts the new national legislation will require bar owners to pay progressively higher licensing fees the later they trade.

“And QLDC will have the right to graduate the licensing conditions”, she adds, which may mean bars opening late may have to put on more free food, for example.

The mayor pledges to work cooperatively with licensees: “We don’t see them as the enemy but part of the solution.”

Bars better play ball though, Van Uden adds: “Our preference is the carrot but we’ll use the stick if we have to.

“Our town should be a place people can visit for an enjoyable time, knowing they’re going to be safe – and not witness violence or vomiting by default.”