Liqour laws no match for drunk and aggro customers

April 10, 2018

Liqour laws no match for drunk and aggro customers

Liquor King Tauranga have a one-way door system to minimise robberies and assaults. Photo: Olivia Fairhurst

Liquor laws were no help when a Tauranga shop worker was attacked by a drunk local.

The Sale of Liquor Act 2012 says not to serve intoxicated people but when refusing service, managers can be left facing aggressive customers.

Tauranga Liquor King duty manager Sammy Norton had a “usually friendly local” throw alcohol at her and threaten her life after she refused him service.

Her licence controller qualification taught her how to talk people around [in difficult situations], protect herself and say no.

"But you don’t learn how to deal with an assault or that level of aggression. I don’t think anything can prepare you for that,” said Ms Norton.

Duty managers were paid very little and had a huge responsibility, she said.

Ms Norton said the Sale of Liquor Act was too focussed on licensed premises where alcohol was consumed.

She no longer uses her duty manager’s licence and has moved stores because she fears for her safety at the Tauranga store.

The Mount Maunganui store she now works at is smaller, has an emergency bell and better communication flows.

Safety concerns have impacted more than just her mental health - she is now worried about her colleagues’ safety.

Following the incident, Ms Norton took a month off work to attend counselling sessions and now relies on anti-anxiety medication.

Liquor King uses Risk New Zealand, a programme teaching employees how to stay calm in tense situations.

“Safety has always been number one for us. We don’t want people going home hurt or not going home at all,” said Liquor King Tauranga/Mount multi-site manager Johan Ter Beek.

Mr Ter Beek said the best approach was to serve the customer and then write up the situation in an incident report so employees were covered.

Tauranga Liquor King duty manager Shona Delaney said the law should make it easier to make decisions that do not risk staff or public safety.

“One remedy we use is to serve intoxicated people and immediately call 111, but that is not [okay under] the law, so we are risking our manager’s licence.”

It seemed the only way to keep everyone safe was to break the law in that way, she said.

The assailant has since been charged with assault.

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