Deadline to resolve bar's capacity problem

A Dunedin bar owner in trouble for repeated overcrowding at his inner-city bar has been given a reprieve by the Dunedin district licensing committee.

The licence for the Carousel bar in Stuart St had been opposed over the ''suitability'' of its operator, John Devereux, in relation to his response to overcrowding and an assault on the premises, with a hearing held earlier this month.

In its decision, committee secretary Kevin Mechen said it would give the ''benefit of the doubt'' and adjourn the matter for 90 days while Mr Devereux investigated options to increase the bar's capacity by putting in another exit.

However, Mr Mechen was critical of Mr Devereux's previous actions.

''To date he has not demonstrated any commitment to resolving an issue he has known about since 2006.

''It appears that it has taken the fear of not having his alcohol licence renewed to motivate the applicant to seek solutions to his occupancy issues.''

That belated search for solutions included engaging a designer and working with a fire engineer on putting in a second exit.

The committee did not agree with Mr Deveruex's argument that because the agencies did not raise the issue until last year, that meant it was not a problem.

''It is clearly a safety problem.''

The breaches were of a magnitude that probably would have put patrons at ''serious risk'' had there been a need to urgently evacuate the premises. Mr Devereux said he was happy with the decision, which he called ''pretty pragmatic''.

He was committed to increasing the bar's capacity, because it was a necessity in order for it to be a viable operation.

At the hearing, alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Ian Paulin said the occupancy breaches were a ''public safety'' issue. Visiting police had found the bar's maximum occupancy of 50 was exceeded multiple times in December, including one occasion where it was estimated between 120 and 150 people were there.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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