Police and council crack down on bottomless brunches in Wellington

Wellington City Council and police have cracked down on bottomless brunches, which they say are a “clear breach” of liquor-licensing laws.

For one establishment, a video that circulated on social media of people sculling mimosas was the final staw.

The council has received several complaints about the events and the promotion of “all you can drink deals”.

Bottomless brunches are offered at a set price and are usually scheduled for a specific period of time over which punters have access to unlimited alcohol.

A council spokesperson said concerns have been raised about irresponsible and heavy consumption of alcohol at these event.

Liquor licensing staff have spoken to a number of licensed premises and encouraged them to introduce four-drink limits by way of a coupon or token system, the spokesperson said.

“The bottomless brunch arrangements are a clear breach of liquor-licensing laws which are designed to rule out irresponsible consumption of alcohol and intoxication.”

Staff are in ongoing discussions with bar owners and are keeping an eye on social media platforms.

An analysis of Facebook posts made by The Garden Hotel, Flamingo Joe’s, and Pop Bar show any reference to “bottomless brunch” completely dried up after November last year.

More recent advertising makes reference to “brunch club” or “two hours of continuous food and fun”.

Kāpura hospitality group director Andrew Williams told the Herald those changes were a direct result of the first meeting with authorities over the events.

Other changes included making it more obvious the food was continuous as well.

Williams noted the events were very “host responsible” considering they are seated, with water, lots of food available, and table service.

“Someone is managing that host responsibility more than just walking up to the bar and buying six shots.”

Williams said the problem was the perception of what “bottomless” meant and a video circulating on social media was the final straw that led them to introducing drink limits.

“We were made aware of a video circulating of some people sculling mimosas and that’s not a good look and that’s not what the promotion’s about.”

Williams said in the past six months his establishments have hosted more than 15,000 bottomless brunches with very few issues.

Nevertheless, he said working with the agencies has been collaborative and positive to ensure the brunches comply with the rules.

A police spokesperson said at this stage they have not initiated legal proceedings in relation to bottomless brunches in Wellington.

Instead, they have worked with some promoters to support them offering the service, while also encouraging the responsible consumption of alcohol.

“We are concerned about any event which has the potential for harm caused by excessive or inappropriate use of alcohol and work closely with the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority and our partner agencies in an effort to minimise this harm”, the spokesperson said.

Public Health portfolio leader councillor Fleur Fitzsimons said any bar that sought to supply an unlimited supply of alcohol could expect to face the consequences.

“The legal framework for the sale of alcohol in New Zealand requires that the consumption of alcohol is undertaken safely and responsibly where the harm caused by excessive consumption of alcohol is minimised, the concept of bottomless brunches is at odds with this.”

Fitzsimons said the council and the hospitality industry have reached an agreement to ensure brunches complied with the law in the future, including the four-drink limit.

Alcohol Healthwatch executive director Nicki Jackson said bottomless brunches have the potential to increase intoxication, causing harm to those drinking and to others.

She said the management of such events was therefore critical.

“Unfortunately, all-you-can-drink events are synonymous with our approach to drinking in New Zealand, where almost half of all alcohol is consumed in heavy drinking occasions.”

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