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Hospitality industry objects to 'creepy' undercover cops in bars

The Hospitality Association is upset over the introduction of plainclothes police staff in Southland pubs to monitor liquor laws.

Chief executive Bruce Robertson says NZ Police contacted liquor licence owners in the region last month to inform them of the policy.

He says there are concerns plainclothes police will scare off customers in the Southland area, and that the policy will be introduced throughout the country.

“Our concerns are twofold; one we think it’s a bit creepy, having undercover police as some might find it uncomfortable.

“We also think it’s a waste of police resources if they sit in a bar for half a night rather than go in uniform to visit a dozen bars.

Mr Robertson says new liquor laws don’t fundamentally change owners' obligations to make sure patrons are over 18 years old and are not intoxicated.

However, he says the penalties are increased as new provisions mean three breaches in two years can mean a liquor licence can be lost for up to five years.

Otago rural prevention manager Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell told local media the initiative provided benefits which traditional police work could not.

''We will be able to observe the behaviours of patrons over a longer period of time and see how a licensee manages this behaviour,'' he said.

"Our plainclothes staff will have a particular focus on intoxication in bars, but they will also note and observe activities surrounding host responsibility and security.''

What do you think? Do you agree with the Hospitality Association that having undercover cops monitoring bars is creepy and intrusive?Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

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Comments and questions

Plain clothes police have operated covertly in bars across NZ (and the world) for many years - this is not new (or news).

Being one of the 'older' buggers out and about these days I find the objections being raised here fairly amusing. The hospitality industry has made a mockery of the administration of responsible drinking and the incidents of public drunkenness have steadily escalated over the last 5 decades to the point now where the streets are regularly awash with wasted humanity behaving appallingly. I welcome any move back to a more sober and less alcohol sodden society and would have no problem knowing there were undercover or uniformed police officers present in a bar, club or anywhere there is alcohol being served.

Well said, couldn't agree more.

Thoroughly agree with concept.
Surely the hospitality industry wants to remove the duds in their business?

WHY is the "hospitality industry" worried about plain clothespolice in bars? Are they doing something illegal?
And surely any customers scared away are the type who feel guilty? Like the irritating motorists legally driving at 98 kph, who slow down to 80 when they see a police car - and slow everyone else up.

Appalling waste of police resources. Just pass a law making it illegal to be drunk in a public place with an instant $250 fine and, problem gone (almost), overnight.

Agreed, this shows a fundamental inability to analyse cause and effect, incentives and disincentives, among New Zealand lawmakers.

As long as customers are not accountable for their actions they will do everything they can to get away with whatever they can. I have seen people sneaking their own alcohol into bars - and yet with an undercover cop of insufficient judgement such a bar could be charged without ever serving the irresponsible punter. Customers are devious; they get their friends to buy them drinks, take extra shots using minibar bottles in the bathrooms, and do anything they can to skirt the rules.

It is much more likely that lawmakers could change behaviour with instant fines for drunkenness in a public place, without making the requirement that bars recognise and patrol every variant of sneaky behaviour under threat of going out of business.


I imagine hospitality industry feels the same way any business/ person might feel with some wet behind the ears constable looking over their shoulder for any minor slip up... can you really blame them for being apposed and where does it stop?

Maybe the police should just make it mandatory for there to be video cameras in every bar so they can monitor things more efficiently ... and while they're at it maybe they should have video cameras in every house ... I mean if we are serious about child abuse maybe all parents should be on camera... think of the possibilities for really stopping crime here and becoming a police state. bugger that the cost is too great on the other side.

Whilst agreeing with Paul. I also like the idea of our police moving about in society in civvies. Why give the morons amongst us a warning by wearing a distinctive uniform? Doesn't make any sense, does it?

Whats next? Sending plain clothes officers into strip clubs to make sure all the patrons are flaccid?

That would work! In uniform nobody would be anything else but flaccid?