Are supermarkets responsible for alcohol-related violence? According to Trina Snow, executive director of NARGON, not as much as people tend to believe.
In her opinion piece for SupermarketNews, Snow mentioned the example of Countdown Cable Car Lane. The recently-opened Progressive’s store struggled to obtain its very first liquor licence due to opposition by members of the public (and one combative Wellingtonian, in particular) on grounds that wasted students might turn Cable Car Lane in ‘Chunder Lane’.
Snow pointed out that this term, overused by the media, had been coined by a ‘veteran serial anti-alcohol campaigner (...) who has objected to virtually every liquor licence in the city for many years’.
It is little wonder that, in such a climate of alarm and demonisation, the store was finally allowed to sell liquor only until 8 pm.
Is it a classic case of the fool looking at the finger, instead of the moon? According to Snow, booze-fuelled violence remains a police issue, not a supermarket issue, and the police should probably channel their efforts in tracking down the actual criminals, rather than opposing a liquor licence ‘for a hard-working supermarket employing hundreds of people’.
On behalf of Foodstuffs, spokeswoman Antoinette Laird said Snow raised some really good points.
“We support the latest changes to the liquor legislation, but we believe there remains a high degree of uncertainty around some elements of the legislation. We feel it is important to have absolute clarity on the key issues, which is why we are going to the Court of Appeal later this year.”
To begin with, Laird emphasised, each of the three reporting agencies involved—police, medical officer of health and council liquor licensing authority—has its own view and these views differ between regions, which ultimately leads to much debate, lengthens the process and adds unnecessary costs.
Human errors, particularly for a business that deals with millions of transactions every week, must be taken into account as well.
“We do our utmost to comply with the law and take our responsibilities very seriously,” Laird said. “We work incredibly hard to ensure staff are trained appropriately and appreciate the importance of getting it right, every time. Errors do happen, but inevitably they are down to human error rather than a failure of the system, which considering the volume of transactions is very robust.”
Back to the original question, where does responsibility lie, then?
“Legally, responsibility of the retailer ends at the point of sale, after this the onus is on the customer to behave responsibly and consume the alcohol they have purchased in a manner that does not cause public disorder, damage and disruption.”