Wellington's Mermaid strip bar has been threatened with enforcement action and warned its staff could face $NZ150,000 in fines in the first official case of Rugby World Cup ambush marketing.
Scantily clad women in stilettos and "All Blacks" uniforms emblazoned with silver ferns handed out two-for-one flyers to male rugby fans after Wellington's first tournament match – South Africa v Wales – on September 11.
The flyers were distributed on the Wellington Regional Stadium concourse and at Wellington railway station. Both are designated "clean zone" areas to protect official tournament sponsors.
Hayden Power from B and M Entertainment which manages the bar said merry post-match rugby tourists were "definitely our target market". The visiting South African and Welsh fans had jammed the strip bar after the game, spending up large.
"I couldn't put a figure on it but it would be substantial."
But days later Mermaid – which is owned by Wellington sex entrepreneurs the Chow brothers – was contacted by police, Wellington City Council and the Economic Development Ministry.
The council warned Mermaid that its actions breached the Major Events Management Act (MEMA ) and a bylaw relating to sex industry advertising. It threatened enforcement action if flyer distribution was repeated.
The ministry warned that there were restrictions on street trading and advertising in clean zones during the tournament. The strip bar and any staff who received payment for handing out the flyers risked $NZ150,000 fines if they committed further breaches.
"This letter is to advise you that prosecution action will be considered should you engage in any further advertising or promotional activity within, or visible from, the Wellington Regional Stadium clean zone during the declared clean periods around future Rugby World Cup matches."
A ministry spokesman said last night the letter was the only warning issued so far nationwide for ambush marketing during the tournament.
Mr Power said the three-pronged agency warning was an overreaction and heavy handed.
"We thought it was very much in the spirit of the Rugby World Cup, especially the girls in rugby outfits, and the guys loved it.
"The guys usually have a few beers at the venue and are looking for something else and there's not much in the way of girls they can talk to."
He had instructed staff to stop handing out flyers in clean zone areas but they would continue distributing the promotional material in Courtenay Place which is the main street in Wellington's inner-city nightlife hub .
Council regulatory stream leader Robert Tierney said council officers were helping the ministry police the MEMA legislation and had been proactive in educating local businesses about their responsibilities. But there was also "heightened awareness" of bylaw regulations, including on sex industry advertising.
Mermaid's activities created a safety hazard by attracting a crowd, Mr Tierney said. But they also raised issues of taste and decency.
"What are we as a city trying to promote?
"Clearly it's not what we really want visitors to the city to be seeing as the best attraction.
"The city has tried to present itself in its best light, so perhaps this type of activity is not the type of activity we'd like to see associated with the event."
The Dominion Post
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-union/rugby-world-cup/naked-ambition-strip-bar-threatened-with-fines-for-ambush-marketing-20110930-1l0md.html#ixzz1ZQncc7mR