Host drinks, run the risk of prosecution

A few weeks ago, we had some friends over for dinner. They are lovely people who I have known for a number of years. The man of the couple does not drink alcohol at all, and I never particularly picked the lady as a big drinker. Four bottles later, she was perfectly normal, and I was basically under the table, almost literally. When they left, I found I couldn’t stand up and, believe me, I can sink a few wines myself if I want to.

I was no match for this tall, slim, beautiful lady who does not look even remotely like your average heavy drinker, but boy… she could drink just about anyone under the table and you would never know it by looking at her.

It seems I should have just served her water because by letting her drink too much I may have got into trouble too.  Stuff reports: quote.

The law makes it illegal to use any unlicensed premises as a ‘place of resort’, i.e, a place where alcohol plays a “substantial” role in the event. That could be at your office, your local community hall – even your home. Drinking, selling and supplying alcohol at an unlicensed premises is often illegal. end quote.

Responsible adults and all that? You can’t give people drinks at your own house? Are you kidding me? quote.

The act expressly allows you to drink in your home and to share your alcohol with guests. Your guests can bring alcohol to give to you, and you can share it with them and any other guests. But they cannot bring alcohol to keep for their own consumption. Nor can they help you pay for yours.

Otherwise, you can be prosecuted for letting people drink alcohol at any place you control. For employers, this includes your office. end quote.

This is madness. It doesn’t apply in all cases, of course, but if you were the one to go to the bottle store to collect supplies and then your mates chipped in later, you would fall foul of the law. Really. Everyone would have to bring their own alcohol to be on the right side of the law. quote.

In 2015 the host of a house party in Napier did everything right – he hired security to check ID at the door, he checked if he needed an alcohol licence and he spoke to police before the event. When the party got out of control the host helped police shut it down – then was charged for operating a place of resort.

The court ruled that police needed only to prove that alcohol was an “integral part” of the event, which was at an unlicensed premises. On this occasion, the host was discharged without conviction. end quote.

What this means is that a dinner party is probably okay, even though alcohol is a big part of the occasion. Where you really might find yourself in trouble is if you invite some friends around to watch the rugby. Alcohol is a major part of the event in that case and is covered very specifically by this law. quote.

Work drinks can be problematic. Just because police haven’t prosecuted before, doesn’t mean they won’t in future. And there are signs of a growing regulatory intolerance.

Last year, police warned hairdressers in Dunedin against offering a glass of wine to clients. Wine as part of the service is considered a ‘sale’.

More recently, police opposed bowling club applications for licence renewal on a technical interpretation of the law, rather than evidence of alcohol-related harm. end quote.

Yeah, we know that. All those bowling club vandals need to be reined in. Friday night drinks in the office may soon be a thing of the past because the primary purpose is to drink alcohol. quote.

Every time you host drinks, you run the risk of prosecution. If alcohol isn’t a substantial part of your event you should be OK. But you can’t always control people attending events and police may come knocking if things go wrong.

If you want to play it safe, you could hire a licensed caterer or relocate to the pub.

Or you can get a licence to cover regular workplace drinks. end quote.

Seriously. Imagine having to apply for a liquor licence to invite the boys around to watch the rugby. If it gets a bit rowdy, and the neighbours complain the penalties are steep. You could be fined $40,000 or jailed for three months, for sale and supply, or up to $20,000 for supply alone. Attendees can also be fined $2000 just for being there.

I’ve got some people coming around for a barbeque tonight. Yes, I’m probably being a bit optimistic, knowing the Wellington weather, but so far, so good. I don’t think I’ve got time to apply for a liquor licence, and alcohol will definitely be part of the function. As Whalemeat steaks will also be part of the occasion, I guess I can always claim that they were the whole purpose of the event – the piece de resistance. But you can see what I mean when I say that these things are starting to become very silly indeed.


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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