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Spacer Spacer Submission to the Liquor Review 1996

Sunday Trading and Supermarkets

A break in drinking

  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit opposes the extension of alcohol availability to the general public through sales on what is a leisure day for most people. Research in other countries has associated Sunday trading with an increase in road crashes and other alcohol related harm. Sunday off-licence sales would extend the possibility of all-weekend binge drinking. Sunday closing, like a break in 24 hour availability of alcohol, may disrupt excessive drinking.

    Although supermarkets are now open on Sundays for other products, allowing them to sell alcohol is considered by others in the industry to be giving supermarkets unfair advantage relative to other off-licences. However, extending Sunday trading to all off licensed premises would entail a considerable increase in the public availability of alcohol, and that availability would be continuous.

  • The symbolic force of the law in influencing the social climate for drinking in New Zealand should not be underestimated. Sunday closing is consistent with the aim of the Act 'to establish a reasonable system of control...contributing to the reduction of liquor abuse'.

Sunday trading and road crashes

  • The introduction (or marked increase) in Sunday alcohol sales in Michigan, Perth, New South Wales, Victoria, Finland and Sweden resulted in increases in road death and injuries and/or violence (Smith 1988; Peberdy 1991). In New South Wales there were considerable increases in road deaths and injuries, despite alcohol already being available on Sundays in clubs.
  • Restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Sundays are the international norm. Many states and countries restrict Sunday liquor sales, partially or totally. Most Australian states do permit Sunday trading but with limited hours, usually opening around midday. In England, but not Wales and Monmouthshire, pubs open at lunchtime and in the evening on Sunday. In Scotland licensees may apply to open on Sundays, with grounds for refusal including undue disturbance or public nuisance. However, some parts of Australia and most Canadian provinces do not permit Sunday opening. Western Australia is similar to New Zealand with only private clubs serving alcohol on Sundays. In Manitoba, too, only clubs may serve liquor on Sundays, with meals and with kitchens fully operational. In Norway, the state monopoly liquor stores closed from 1 pm on Saturday, as well as Sunday, after a trial closure period in 1991 showed a decrease in assault rates, drunkenness, and domestic disturbances, without diminishing total liquor sales (Lenke 1984; Lindh 1988), although this decision later met with political reversal.

Sunday alcohol with meals only

  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports the current Act and the legislative intention that alcohol shall be available on Sundays only for consumption with a meal. The proposed clauses above, defining a meal and the circumstances in which alcohol may be consumed with a meal, are drawn from overseas legislation, and are in line with rulings by the Liquor Licensing Authority.

    Lack of adequate definition of meals has focused dissatisfaction on the fact that some licensees may trade on Sundays while others may not. The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit suggests that equity in competition on Sundays should be based only on their ability to provide a satisfactory table meal. Just as many hotels have both on- and off-licences, a pub or hotel may apply for a restaurant licence with Sunday hours of trading for a separate dining room area, while the bar area is closed on Sundays. Clubs which may open on Sundays are restricted to serving members and guests by the terms of their licence.

Supermarket wine only

  • The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit opposes the extension of supermarket sales to alcohol products other than wine. The introduction of wine into New Zealand supermarkets was followed by a 17% increase in overall wine sales (Wagenaar & Langley 1995). From 1990 to 1995 there was an increasing trend for the availability of wine in supermarkets to be given as a reason for increased consumption by women (APHRU, unpublished). The extension of supermarket sales to beer, spirits or alcoholic sodas would represent a considerable increase in availability and is likely to result in a similar increase in consumption. This is a particular concern with regard to beer, which is commonly drunk by heavy drinking males and by underage drinkers (Wyllie, Millard & Zhang 1996). Alcoholic sodas and branded mixed drinks with 6% alcohol by volume are directed specifically at the '18-25 year old convenience buyer' (Mowday 1995).


  • Compliance with laws on Sunday trading needs to be supported by routine inspection to ensure that all licence categories, including clubs, are not overstepping their privileges. This may be done in a variety of ways through inspection practices and regulations. In both Manitoba and California, evidence of the satisfactory provision of meals, which alcohol may accompany, is provided by an adequate and fully functioning kitchen. 'Bona fide eating places' in California must provide evidence that not more than 40% of revenue comes from alcohol. In Manitoba restaurant chits are required to indicate food as well as alcohol for each customer, and can be monitored by inspectors. A number of states require a daily record of club guests as well as requirements aimed at preventing casual membership.

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October 1997