Story: Liquor laws

Page 3. Loosening of liquor laws

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Post-Second World War changes

The freeze on the number of liquor outlets, along with six o’clock closing, led to unpleasant drinking conditions and crowded bars in growing towns and cities, as people tried to drink as much as they could in a short time. A royal commission that reported in 1946 recommended changes, some of which were enacted in 1948.

Parliament established the Licensing Control Commission (LCC) to issue new licences where they were scarce, and close down hotels where they were plentiful. The LCC was hampered by legal problems, lack of funding and the fact that objectors could block new bars by forcing a local poll.

Parliament allowed clubs such as RSAs (for returned servicemen) to legally sell liquor by removing the freeze on new chartered clubs imposed in 1908. It also abolished discriminatory provisions relating to Māori and provided for a national referendum on licensing hours. Voters opted to retain six o’clock closing in the resulting 1949 referendum.

The 1950s saw minimal change, although in 1952 Parliament lifted the ban on women holding liquor licences. Alcohol consumption rose significantly in the post-war economic boom. However, the rise was stalled for several years after the 1958 ‘black budget’ doubled taxes on beer and spirits.

The 1960s

During the more liberal social climate of the 1960s major reform occurred. Law changes in 1960 and 1961 allowed a limited number of licensed restaurants, and ended the ban on barmaids. These and other reforms were incorporated in the Sale of Liquor Act 1962. Taverns, which sold alcohol without providing overnight accommodation, could be licensed under the new act, providing landlords paid a hefty tax on business turnover. The LCC was given greater powers.

In 1967 another referendum on licensing hours convinced Parliament to end 50 years of six o’clock closing. The drinking age was lowered to 20 in 1969.

Big booze barns

Suburban taverns were small in number but large in size and were often surrounded by huge car parks. The main bar of the Bush Inn in Christchurch had a floor area of 6,500 square feet, and the Johnsonville Licensing Trust built two taverns of 5,000 and 8,000 square feet. In 1968 New Zealand Breweries was granted approval to build a massive tavern on 14 acres of land at Māngere Bridge in Auckland – the tavern’s four bars totalled 15,800 square feet.

The 1970s

From 1971 Parliament allowed a tiny number of cabarets to serve alcohol until 11.30 p.m. with food and entertainment. New taverns were established under the reforms of the 1960s, although continued restrictions meant taverns were few in number and large in size. The drunkenness, violence and drink-driving associated with such venues earned them the nickname ‘booze barns’.

Another royal commission was convened, and Parliament implemented its main recommendations in the late 1970s. It established the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) in 1976 to encourage responsible use of alcohol. Restaurant licences became easier to get and a new BYO (‘bring your own’) permit was introduced. Sports clubs were allowed liquor licences, resulting in thousands of additional licensed outlets. Parliament also further liberalised drinking hours.

How to cite this page:

Paul Christoffel, 'Liquor laws - Loosening of liquor laws', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/liquor-laws/page-3 (accessed 17 June 2019)

Story by Paul Christoffel, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 15 Dec 2014