Announcing yesterday’s package of puritanism, Simon Power-Lust signalled that he will be continuing the attack on small bottle-store owners begun by Helen Clark the very week bottle-store owner Navtej Singh was shot. One of the three big “improvements” delivered by his reforms, says Simon, is that it “gives communities a say in when and where liquor outlets can open.” The unspoken announcement being: “We’re going to make it damned hard to get a new license, or renew an existing one.”
This frankly just blames small-business owners for selling to wiling customers. It’s the same sort of finger-pointing in which several hundred people indulged in Manukau last week, marching on council buildings to complain about what other people are doing. One woman in the rally, who revealed to the interviewer that she had a god on her side (she didn’t reveal which one), complained that in Manukau there is now “a bottle store on every corner.” “That’s not what we want as a community,” she huffed.
Well, I beg to differ.
If there really were a bottle store on every corner (there are 350 bottle stores in Manukau, but many more corners) then that would in fact be a sign that this is precisely what “the community” does want—because the customers of those bottle stores, who come from “the community,” are the very people who are keeping all these bottle stores open, demonstrating as clearly as you can that this is precisely what “the community” does want.
So what the woman should have said was “this is not what I want.” “The community, c’est moi.” But why is her voice more important than any other? And why should her puritanism give her any power to to tell you and me when and where we can buy a bottle of wine?
Well, on that one you’ll have to ask Simple Simon. Because in “giving communities a say in when and where liquor outlets can open,” he is simply giving a say to busybodies like this one, and taking it away from the communities themselves. Because like that woman, Simple Simon is completely unaware that communities already are “having a say” in where and when outlets are open—having a say by voting with their wallet every time they make a purchase.
They’re called customers, Simon. At the end of the day it’s not you or I or anyone else who decides whether or not a bottle store or any other store stays open. They do: their customers. And these customers are the community.
Perhaps you should listen to what they’re saying. Because shutting down these small businesses won’t limit demand for alcohol, it will simply change where it’s bought. And meanwhile, as Eric Crampton observes, there are a lot of immigrant families whose businesses are going to be destroyed.