Small groceries allowed to sell liquor

Mark Mitchell

The Government is taking steps to ensure that small grocery businesses can continue to hold liquor licences.

The moves are designed to ensure the continued responsible sale and supply of alcohol. Under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, grocery stores can hold an off-licence if the store’s principal business is the sale of food products, which is based on sales revenue.

The Government is aware that, as a result of tobacco excise tax increases, some grocery stores may be unable to renew off-licences to sell alcohol.

Allowing grocery stores to sell alcohol supports the message of drinking responsibly by eating food when having a drink. The law is clear on that, for good reason.

As a result of tobacco excise tax increases, the main source of revenue for some grocery stores has changed to tobacco products. These stores therefore no longer qualify as grocery stores and cannot be issued an off-licence.

It is not the purpose of tobacco excise tax increases to restrict small grocery stores from being able to sell alcohol.

To address the unintended impacts of these increases on grocery stores, the Government is making minor changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Regulations 2013 to exclude the tobacco excise tax when determining a store’s principal business.

The changes will be introduced in the coming months.

Mark Mitchell is Associate Justice Minister of New Zealand.

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