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LICENSING COMMITTEES., Issue 7938, 20 June 1889
TO THE EDITOR. Sin, —Now that the licensing business is for the present pretty well over I crave an opportunity to make a few comments on the doings of one or two of the committees ; and first iu turn comes that at Port Chalmers. The first thing that strikes one in the report of the proceedings of this Committee is the coincidence of diminished drunkenness with the suppression of bottle Heenseß. One will await with some curiosity the effects on the social habits of the people of the reissue of these objectionable licenses. The reissue of these licenses by a pro-liquor Committee affords one an opportunity of judging of the honesty of the hotelkeepers and their friends in their denunciation of the bottle licenses and their promise of aid in their suppression.
Then followed the evidence of the disregard alike of the spirit and letter of the Licensing Act by the Committee elected to administer it, which Committee was presided over by a Justice of the Peace. This gentleman (i)r Drysdale) is reported to have said that "it was almost unnecessary for special applications for eleven o'clock licenses, as that wa3 one of the principles of the Committee." Surely Dr Drysdale must know that this "principle of the Committee" is inconsistent with and opposed to tho letter of the Act. This provides that all publicans shall close at ten o'clock ; and only in "special" cases, when it may be deemed necessary for the convenience of the public, are the committees empowered to grant any extension of time beyond that hour. Is it to be understood that the Committee believe it to be necessary for the conveniens of the people of Port Chalmers that six drinking shops should be kept open until eleven o'clock at night ? If this is so, one must conclude that there are many " thirsty souls" at Port Chalmers.
I will now pass on to the "few remarks" of the chairman. Let me grant, to meet the opinions of Dr Drysdale, that " tho Licensing Act was never intended by tho Legislature for the suppression or obliteration of what is called the liquor traffic, but rather with a view to its proper regulation and restriction within due limits," and then I will ask the doctor to explain the last phrase in this sentence in the light of the Act, on the purpose and intent of which he comments. The Act, in section 75, distinctly directs the Committee "toexercisctbeirown discretion," and says they shall not be obliged to grant a license in any case, "unless in their opinion there is a necessity for the publichouEe or other establishment for the sale of intoxicating liquors for which the application is made." Now, as has been many times pointed out, this is not a mere optional power given to the committees to do as they like. The provisions of the Act make it the imperative duty of the Committee in every case to determine whether or not the house proposed to be licensed is a "necessity." The precise words of the Act are : " The Licensing Committee shall exercise its discretion." Here then, I think, we have the definition according to the Act of the " due limits" within which the liquor traflicshould be confined—the limit of "necessity." If this be so, and I should like to see Dr Drysdale try and show to the contrary, does the doctor pretend to say that tho Port Chalmers Committee have deliberately arrived at the conclusion that six hotels and three licensed groceries are a " necessity " in Port Chalmers, and that in licensing all of these the Committee have restricted the traffic "within duo limits?''
There are other points raised in Dr Drysdale's "few remarks'' on which I desire to comment, but lest I now trespass too far on your space I will reserve these for another letter.—l am, etc., Veritas Vincit, Dunedin, June 15.
LICENSING COMMITTEES., Issue 7938, 20 June 1889
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