Got the Booze Blues

The vexed issue of the sale and supply of alcohol to prohibitied persons (minors and intoxicated patrons) should be at the forefront of the minds of all licensees.  The New Zealand Police along with local authorities and public health organisations both locally and around the country are cracking down on breaches of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 ("SASA").

While prohibited people were identified in the old legislation, SASA has more teeth and greater enforcement powers and penalties. There is also a definition of intoxication. The law says that:

"Intoxicated means observably affected by alcohol, other drugs, or other substances (or a combination of two or all of those things) to such a degree that two or more of the following are evident:

(a)  appearance is affected;
(b)  behaviour is impaired;
(c)  co-ordination is impaired;
(d)  speech is impaired."

The definition is of course subjective and there will be differences in interpretation. Anyone going to licensed premises for a few drinks may be suprised when asked to leave. However, for licensees and duty managers wanting to follow the rules, removing intoxicated patrons is paramount given the possible consequences. It's important for staff to have the skills to deal with these scenarios.

Licensees need to carefully consider the following:

  1. Staff Training Procedures: It is the licensee and the duty manager who will be facing enforcement action if the sale to a minor or an intoxicated person is made. Bar staff can also be prosecuted. Robust staff training is essential ensuring that all staff are aware of their legal obligations. It is all too easy to serve a customer without proper assessment. Staff should be familiar with the Intoxication Assessment Tool procedure by the Health Promotion Agency.
  2. Security Staff: Busy bars need competent and experienced security staff to check identification, remebering that the accepted IDs are a New Zealand driver's licence; a passport or an 18+ card. It should be standard policy to check the ID of anyone who looks under the age of 25.
  3. Host Responsibility Policy: A comprehensive policy must be in place. All staff should be fully aware of the contents of the policy and it should be updated regularly.
  4. Promotions: All advertising and promotions should be carefully considered and not encourage excessive drinking. The new legislation has a number of provisions outlining the ways in which alcohol can be promoted and discounted.

If a sale to a prohibited person is made then it is inevitable that the agencies will apply for a liquor licence to be suspended. If your licence is suspended, the premises will be closed for at least 24 hours resulting in a loss of income, staffing issues and possibly legal fees. The offence will also be recorded under the new "three strikes" rules. Any licensee committing three offences in three years will have its licence cancelled.

In a nutshell, when it comes to obeying the legislation you cannot be too careful. Ensure staff are vigilant at all times. It pays to err on the side of caution. A quick sale should never take priority over adhering to the legislation.