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Aro Valley residents speak out against liquor store bid

Aro Fruit supply, which owner Manjula Patel has applied to convert into a bottle shop.

Fierce public opposition may see plans for a liquor store in Aro Valley flushed down the drain.

The Wellington district licensing committee (DLC) received 55 applications opposing an application to turn a fruit and vegetable shop in Aro St into a liquor store.

Both the police and Wellington City Council are opposing Manjula Patel and Vinod Hira's application to convert their business, Aro Fruit Supply, into a store that will sell ready-to-drink alcohol and spirits.

Manjula Patel in 2015 at her old store, also in Aro Valley.

A two-day hearing to assess whether the licence should be approved began on Thursday, with several objectors making their voices heard.

READ MORE:
Police accused of drumming up opposition to Wellington liquor store application
Police, regional health fight to curtail closing hours for Wellington liquor stores in 'risk areas'
* Wellington grocery store stoush plays out over Aro Valley liquor licences

Aro St resident Louisa Beltron-Castillon said that, in her 15 years in the suburb, she had seen the harm and disturbance alcohol could cause.

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Aro Valley residents have been vocal on social media in their opposition to the liquor store conversion.

Before a liquor ban covering the area was established in 2010, she frequently had to call police to report rowdy behaviour and violence in Aro Park, near her home.

"Passing through the park became intimidating, and there were alcohol bottles and glass strewn about."

The liquor ban had helped initially, but drinking was still an issue in the park, and she believed approving a new liquor store would make it more prevalent.

Manjula Patel's two Aro St businesses. She wants to convert the fruit and vegetable shop to a bottle shop.

"It's definitely something that is not needed. Bringing more alcohol in goes against what the community is about."

Her objections were echoed by other submitters, including Aro Valley Community Council co-chair Hilary Unwin, who said Aro Valley was already "well-served" in its number of liquor outlets.

"I do think greater access to alcohol results in greater consumption," she said, drawing from a recent Law Commission report into liquor laws.

The proposed floor plan for the liquor store drew criticism from police and objectors, concerned about the placement of stock on the floor and where spirits would be kept.

The application has also been opposed by the owners of Aro Valley Mini Mart, whose business is across the road from Patel's Superette.

Earlier this year, police officers doorknocked businesses around Manjula Patel's Aro Fruit Supply to inform them of the application.

Patel believed backlash to the plan was heightened after police shared a guide on social media, showing people how to object, complete with a photo of her store.

However, of the five objectors who spoke on Thursday, not one said they had been encouraged or coerced into making a submission for, or against, the proposal by police.

The hearing will continue on Friday, with at least two more objectors set to speak.

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