Coast club denied slice of America’s Cup pie

A sports club has been left out in the cold, after Auckland Council frustrated its attempts to get a special alcohol licence that would allow it to open its doors to the public to view America’s Cup races on its big screen.

The club, which does not wish to be named, saw the public screenings as an opportunity to gain some benefit from the Cup, while providing the Hibiscus Coast community with a way to come together and celebrate locally in a convivial atmosphere.

It holds a club licence and applied to Council for a special licence for its America’s Cup screenings – something it is legally required to do before it opens its premises, and bar, to the general public.

Council staff do not have the power to issue special licences – the application goes to Police and the Medical Officer of Health for comment, is assessed by a Council alcohol licensing inspector, and is then sent to the independent District Licensing Committee (DLC) for a decision.

However, this application never got that far. Instead, the club was advised by Council’s senior alcohol licensing inspector that he would not support the application and that, in his view, the DLC was also unlikely to support it – something the club repeatedly questioned but ultimately accepted, withdrawing its application.

The inspector’s view was that “while the America’s Cup itself is a special event, live screenings of races are not considered an event” – something local Councillor John Watson describes as “splitting hairs”.

Cr Watson says bearing in mind the amount of money ratepayers put into the America’s Cup – $113 million – Council should be bending over backwards to support local groups like this.

“One of the selling points for that massive investment in the Cup was the spinoffs for the rest of Auckland,” Cr Watson says. “So, if ever there was an occasion for a little flexibility, this was surely it.

One part of Council doesn’t seem to be talking to the other – not a great attitude, especially when a venue ticks all the boxes. What harm could it possibly have done to grant this licence?”

Auckland Council’s alcohol and environmental health manager, Mervyn Chetty, says it is great to see businesses across Auckland benefitting from the America’s Cup, and there are a large number of licensed premises on the Hibiscus Coast that will be showing the Cup racing.

“Our staff work with venues to help them through the process,” Mr Chetty says. “We spoke to this club about making sure their proposal met the required conditions and they decided to withdraw their application. It is likely they will be open to members and guests of members for the racing.”

While agreeing that a special licence is required for holders of a club licence to open to the public, Mr Chetty says that a past decision from the Liquor Licensing Authority determined that for already licensed premises, simply showing televised coverage of a sporting event was not, in itself, an event.

Applicants can push for a hearing of the DLC if anyone – including an alcohol licensing inspector – opposes a licence. However, this club did not take that step. A spokesperson said that having the licence turned down was disappointing, as it seemed the perfect opportunity to promote the club to the local community, but they accepted the decision.

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