Bottomless Brunches: A Time for Much Needed Social Interaction or an Excuse to Binge Drink?

Wellington establishments were recently warned by the city council and police about bottomless brunches following complaints of excessive drinking.

Bottomless brunches have been a popular weekend pastime in the city, with restaurants offering a two-hour period of food and a range of bottomless alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Prices range from about $45 to $65.

Wellington City Council spokesman, Richard Maclean said the council and police had taken action after a number of complaints about the promotion of ‘all you can drink’ deals.

“The ‘bottomless brunch' arrangements are a clear breach of liquor-licensing laws - which are designed to rule out irresponsible consumption of alcohol and intoxication,” MacLean said.

Councillor Tamatha Paul, however, has said that in reality, bottomless brunches were not literally bottomless and added that she was worried about the impact of cracking down on these events, which could lead to people binge drinking at home.

Paul pointed out that these events have a time limit and by the time waiters serve every table people were only consuming around four to five drinks. The events also encourage people to have a proper meal.

“The alternative and reality is that people can get smashed off their faces for a lot less than $50. This is about creating a different culture from binge-drinking and making it more about social interactions,” noted Paul.

Most attendees at bottomless brunches were, in Paul's experience, women spending time with their friends.

“As a young woman, I 100 percent prefer drinking in a safe space where food is available. Transport options are limited past a certain time and most women don't feel safe walking home at night. For many young women, doing this in the daytime is a safer alternative.”

According to Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association president Michael Turnbull​, changes to bottomless brunches could mean students end up engaging less in these events and potentially turn to more harmful ways of drinking.

“These are safe and controlled environments with easy access to rides home,” he commented.

On its social media, the city council said that bottomless brunches were not actually banned.

“We have simply reminded licensees of their requirements to not serve intoxicated people and promote alcohol responsibly,” it said.

Another councillor, Sean Rush​, said it was the responsibility of the licensee to make sure things were safe and there was a natural incentive to watch how much people were drinking.

"We want to encourage people to have alcohol in a managed and mature environment as opposed to an environment that doesn't have a safeguard and will have a much more negative effect on people.”

For now, it appears that Wellingtonians will still be able to enjoy the bottomless brunch, perhaps they should just go easy on the mimosas.