Judge rejects supermarkets' bid to halt booze ban

Not enough evidence to prove supermarkets will suffer.

Supermarket giants Foodstuffs and Progressive have lost a bid to defer Auckland Council's plans for a booze ban that restricts when retailers can sell liquor. 

The owners of New World and Countdown had banded together to thwart the local alcohol policy about when liquor should be sold. One of the key provisions is maximum trading hours for beer and wine, set at between 7am and 9pm in the council’s Provisional Alcohol Plan. The current trading hours are to 11pm and the original proposal to cull the hours to 9am to 9pm was changed after appeal to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority.

In November last year the supermarkets sought a judicial review against the Alcohol Regulatory and Licencing Authority, saying its decision had been wrong. 

In the meantime, the businesses asked Justice Rebecca Edwards if implementation of the policy could be put off until a hearing is held in April next year.

They had argued they would suffer if the plan is implemented before it can be judicially reviewed.

Justice Edwards, noting that there was a lot of uncertainty about the timing of when the policy would come into force anyway, ruled against the supermarkets.
She said there was no evidence of what the reduced hours would mean in real terms for the supermarkets.

“For example, there is no evidence of any financial impact arising out of reduced trading hours, and no evidence from customers to substantiate the claims of inconvenience.

She also said there wasn’t any proof of difficulties that might be encountered if the supermarkets win their court case after the policy is set and the hours have to be reversed. 

Last year the Medical Association called for supermarkets to be banned from selling booze, citing adverse health effects from cheap alcohol.

Foodstuffs NZ's Antoinette Laird said in a statement it had sought to preserve the status quo. 

"We believe it would be unfortunate and confusing for our customers to have a change of alcohol retailing hours imposed across all of Auckland, only to have that change potentially reversed."