Applicant told they have ‘got to earn’ a liquor licence

Mela Eatery in the Octagon. PHOTO:PETER MCINTOSH
Mela Eatery in the Octagon. PHOTO:PETER MCINTOSH
An Octagon restaurant has been ordered to present completed training records and policies before a judgement about its liquor licence can be made.

Mela Eatery, housed in the ground floor of the former Eleven Bar premises, appeared before Dunedin’s district licensing committee at a hearing for an on-licence application last month.

The restaurant’s sole director, Yuba Khattri, was convicted of drink-driving in July last year and the police, medical officer of health and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Otepoti all cast doubt on her suitability to hold a liquor licence.

In a minute dated April 12, committee secretary Kevin Mechen said it had decided to adjourn the matter until November.

Mela Eatery had a closing time no later than midnight and was in the heart of the city’s night-time entertainment precinct, Mr Mechen said.

While the applicant owned another licensed premises under the same name, in George St, the sale of alcohol was "a very small part" of their Octagon premises.

The systems, processes and staff training "appeared to be still being developed", and while they may be adequate for the George St premises, the Octagon clientele would be quite different and these needed to be tailored for the busier environment.

The committee requested copies of training records and tailored policies and procedures be tabled once it reconvened, along with brief reports from the reporting agencies reviewing the applicant’s progress.

Mrs Khattri appeared at the hearing from Portugal via an audiovisual link, but her 21-year-old daughter Susmita Khattri spoke on her behalf in person.

Ms Khattri told the committee she had recently received her manager’s certificate and intended to serve as one of four duty managers at the restaurant.

"While appearing very capable . . . the committee would like her to gain some experience managing licensed premises at a busier location and be able to focus on the role of a duty manager", Mr Mechen said.

Committee chairman Colin Weatherall said Mela Eatery had every entitlement to continue operating as a restaurant while its liquor licence was under consideration.

"They need to tidy up their whole process of application and presentation, and convince the committee that they’ve got the experience and the knowledge and the processes in place to take a licence on.

"A licence is a privilege, not a right — they’ve got to earn that."

The committee had heard that Prakash Khattri, Mrs Khattri’s husband and a former director of Eleven Bar, still held a current manager’s certificate but intended to work in Mela Eatery as a chef.

He is now facing 12 charges for breaching employment laws — which carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and a fine of $100,000 — due to his involvement in two India Garden establishments in Dunedin and Cromwell last year.

Mr Weatherall said one of the challenges Mela Eatery faced was "the awareness of what went on" at Eleven Bar.

"The committee is clearly minded that this is a fresh application in its own right and it has to stand on its own merit."