A Judge has criticised the Whangarei District Council for sitting on liquor licence renewal applications and suggested that affected businesses lodge a class action against the territorial authority.
Authority chair Judge John Hole said the Sale of Liquor Act did not tell the council to sit on applications needing renewal but to deal with them within a reasonable timeframe.
The council picked Malbas on Vine St as a test case for its new liquor licensing rules where nightclubs have a one-way door system between 1am and closing time at 3am.
Patrons would not be able to enter or re-enter a venue in the CBD between those times.
The new policy was to have come into effect at the end of 2012.
Malbas is among 83 licensees whose liquor licence expired before the end of last year but even though applying for a new one, they have been advised by the council to continue on their existing conditions until the new rules come into play.
Council lawyer Julian Dawson and Malbas' director Kim Brown argued against the change before the Alcohol and Regulatory Licensing Authority in Whangarei this week.
Ms Brown applied for her liquor licence to be renewed in May last year and said that the one-way door policy would destroy her business.
Judge Hole said the bar had been made a scapegoat by the council.
Mr Dawson said the Act was silent on how soon applications should be dealt with but, when asked by Judge Hole, conceded they must be decided within a reasonable time.
Judge Hole said all liquor licence holders should be bound by the same rules, especially the one-way door policy.
If all bar owners filed a case jointly, an experienced lawyer could then properly and fairly represent them, he said.
He adjourned the matter and directed the council to prepare a report on all outstanding applications.
"If the council had done what it should have done and sent the applications to Wellington, we may have heard the application by now.
"It's all well for the DLA (District Licensing Authority) to try and implement this policy but conversely all these licensees will say we're entitled to justice," Judge Hole said.