Sting finds stores on their guard

Hamilton bottle stores and city pubs and clubs appear to be abiding by liquor licensing laws, with a police sting failing to uncover any sales to underage teens.

Hamilton police alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Jim Kernohan said 20 licensed premises around Hamilton were the focus of a police compliance operation on Friday and Saturday nights.

Two underage female volunteers visited several supermarkets, superettes, off-licences and pubs and clubs over the two nights armed with cash and no IDs.

In one case the pair came close to buying a six-pack of vodka Cruisers by handing over an eftpos card before the attendant halted at the last minute and asked for ID.

Kernohan said zero breaches was a good result.

"It shows that compliance is being done and that the off- and on-licences are abiding by legislation. It is the results we were hoping for."

Despite the good result, police had been informed of Hamilton outlets selling to underage people, he said. There tended to be a higher volume of breaches in lower socio-economic areas and high-traffic areas, where there were more liquor outlets.

"We will target places that we may have visited before and had a breach, or ones we may have an issue with."

Premises that sold to underage teens could face charges in district courts or appear before the Liquor Licensing Authority, where a decision would be made on the store's licence, he said.

Under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, those caught selling or supplying alcohol to minors face a fine of up to $10,000 if a manager or owner, and a suspended licence of up to seven days. A person who is not a manager or owner who is found to have sold alcohol to a minor is liable for a fine of up to $2000.

"If it is a stand-alone bottle store and it's the first time before the authority, it's a 24-hour suspension of their licence. For supermarkets it could be a seven-day suspension, which would be huge," Kernohan said.

Either way, those found in breach would face repercussions and would have to front up to him first, he said.

"I go in there straight after and ask them directly if they made the sale. They have the right of reply."

A three-strikes rule is in place before an outlet loses its licence altogether.

Kernohan said the message was simple - don't sell to anyone without identification, because there were youngsters out there attempting to buy it.

There was no excuse for outlets selling to underage teens, he said.