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Party buses told by Chch City Council to stay dry while mobile

5 July 2004

Christchurch City Council, in its role as the District Licensing Agency, has written to operators of party buses telling them a clampdown on customers drinking alcohol while aboard the buses is just around the corner.

According to bar operators and police, the party bus business is producing too many intoxicated customers, many of whom are ultimately let loose in the central city. The Council has asked bus operators to a meeting next week to discuss a Council plan to license the business.

The Council is proposing that operators seek special licences if they want to continue to have drinking allowed aboard their vehicles.

“Central-city bar operators tell us they don’t want this influx of intoxicated people,” says Martin Ferguson, the Council sale of liquor inspector. “It creates problems for their door and bar staff because the law says they can’t let intoxicated people into their bars or serve them. The police say many of them end up roaming the streets, breaching the public drinking ban.

“What we’re telling the bus operators is that the unlicensed drinking on the buses won’t be tolerated any more,” Mr Ferguson says. “The police will be enforcing the law and that means both the operators and the passengers can be prosecuted.”

Under the Sale of Liquor Act, bus operators could face fines of up to $10,000 and each passenger could be fined up to $1000.  There is also an offence under the Summary Offences Act which could apply, carrying a fine of up to $300 each.
Mr Ferguson says the party bus service grew out of the pub crawl - a way for groups to safely visit a variety of licensed premises. “Providing a good sound system and allowing liquor to be consumed on the buses has crept into the equation to the point that the trip itself has become the event, albeit an illegal one. I hear that in some cases it’s got to the point that it’s only the toilets being used at the stops.

“We’re saying they should get a licence and operate on the same playing field as other bars or cut out the drinking while aboard,” he says.

The bus operators are invited to discuss the scheme at a meeting in the Council Chambers on Tuam Street, on 13 July at 4.30pm.

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