Pubs, bars, restaurants, sports clubs, nightclubs all have a responsibility that comes with their on-license to provide a safe drinking environment and promote and ensure responsible consumption of alcohol. Supermarkets and liquor stores have no such responsibilities with their off-licenses. On-license premises also offer entertainment and social interactions. Off-licenses do not.
The pricing of alcohol in New Zealand provides incentive for off-license drinking without any host responsibility before going out to enjoy the entertainment and sociability at the on-license premises, at the cost of those on-license establishments.
Some ideas I have thought up:
- Differentiate taxing for on-license and off-license alcohol sales. Pushing up off-license prices would erode the incentive for pre drinking, meaning more people go to on-license premises more sober. This in turn would have the effect of increasing revenue of on-license premises, making them less reliant on pushing boundaries of selling to nearly or already intoxicated patrons (after all - that is a significant part of many businesses). This would involve taking on the 'big alcohol' lobbyists of supermarkets and liquor store chains.
- Offer incentives for 'good behaviour' of bars so they are not required to push the boundaries so much by being forced to sell alcohol to nearly or already intoxicated patrons. Tax breaks, rates rebates, cash grants, whatever. We spend taxpayer money on sporting events (America's Cup $5 million today), pieces of art ($800k for Antony Gormley statues in 2015), why not for entertainment of a different type?
If correctly manage to shift our culture, there is opportunity to harness the benefits of the culture around alcohol while reducing the harm. The decision must be made if this is worth the effort, or if we are happy to remove both the costs AND the benefits with our current approach.
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