| 30.07,19. 06:04 PM |
NT liquor licensing laws affect sale of household cooking products, vendors warned
Photo: Cooking products such as soy sauce appear to be affected by the laws. (ABC RN: Jeremy Story Carter)
Photo: Vanilla essence, which contains alcohol, on sale at a Darwin supermarket. (ABC News: Dane Hirst)
Some brands of soy sauce and other household cooking items could soon only be available to buy at licensed premises in Alice Springs, after several retailers in the town were sent a warning letter by the NT Government.
The ABC understands the acting director-general of licensing sent the letter to several retailers in the town late last week.
It states that if a vendor wants to sell any product over 50ml that contains 1.15 per cent ethyl alcohol or more, they require a liquor licence, and if the items are being sold without a licence currently, it is in violation of the NT Liquor Act.
Katie Baker, who owns and runs an unlicensed shop in Alice Springs, said the letter left a lot of questions unanswered.
"Vanilla Essence you can sort of get around, in the fact that it comes in a 50ml container" Ms Baker said.
"[But] your soy sauce, your hand wash, your nail polish removers, rice wines, your sauces, your other various items that do contain alcohol are very hard to actually be able to find in a 50ml container, which is what they're stating we can only sell it in."
Retailers unsure what to do
Ms Baker said the letter did not specifically state what action she was to take as a retailer without a liquor licence, and there had been no communication on the matter other than the letter itself.
"So obviously we're going to be taking this further," she said.
"I mean what do we do? Do we just say to our customers 'sorry, we no longer sell soy sauce'.
"Where do we draw the line? I mean, do we sell our nail polish remover through the bottle shop? And our hand wash through the bottle shop?
"What happens if you're on the banned-drinkers register? Does that mean you can no longer buy soy sauce?
"I know lots of people have questioned overnight 'is this a joke', you know, 'is this for real', and unfortunately no, it's not a joke and yes, it is for real."
Crackdown could affect trade
Retail Drinks Australia chief executive Julie Ryan said they had organised a meeting with the Northern Territory Licensing Commission for this Thursday to determine the if products sold at grocery stores, petrol stations and pharmacies were defined as liquor.
But in the meantime, she said licencing inspectors had been visiting a range of stores in Darwin and Alice Springs insisting items be taken off the shelves.
"In one store it was everything from Teriyaki marinade and soy sauce through to cough syrup, whereas in some other stores in was just cooking wine and sake," she said.
"It basically means, from this point in time, the director general has determined that every single pharmacy, petrol store and supermarket in the Northern Territory is currently in breach of the liquor act."
Laws could change when Liquor Act is amended
According to Ms Ryan, these guidelines could change in a few months, when the 1978 Liquor Act is due to be amended.
"It seems a really odd decision to change 40 years of interpretation of something for the sake of a few months of complete chaos, to then potentially revert it again when the new act comes into place," she said.
Ms Ryan said she would be requesting the Government cease their compliance activities.
Major retailers Woolworths and Coles have both been contacted for comment.
A spokesperson for Woolworths said the organisation was currently working to comply with requests from regulatory officials.
The NT Department of Attorney-General and Justice has also been contacted for a response.