Police want hotel shut down

Heffs Hotel in South Dunedin. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Heffs Hotel in South Dunedin. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
At least seven incidents of extreme intoxication and violence at Heffs Hotel, including a gang brawl, are being considered by the Liquor Licensing Authority in a bid by police to have the South Dunedin pub closed.

Police applications to have the hotel's on-licence cancelled and general manager certificates suspended were heard by the authority, Judge John Hole and David Major, in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

Dunedin police alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Ian Paulin said despite several meetings with Heffs staff in the last year, little had changed and the pub continued to attract trouble.

Six police officers, including Sgt Paulin, gave evidence yesterday about seven incidents at Heffs since April relating to violence as well as intoxicated and aggressive patrons.

The testimony of a seventh police officer about a Heffs patron being processed for drink-driving was also presented, and mention was made of uncertified security staff and patrons so drunk they fell asleep in the bar.

The worst incident, on April 17, was a gang-related brawl at the hotel during the wake of a former Mongrel Mob Notorious member.

Sergeant David Scott said he was called to Heffs about midnight and found more than 50 people fighting in the car park.

Gang members and associates had a ''Mexican stand-off'' with opponents from a Dunedin family for about 40 minutes before they dissipated, he said.

Heffs operating manager Stephen Clark was questioned by Sgt Paulin about whether it was appropriate for the wake of an ex-gang member - involving existing gang members - to be held at the pub.

Sgt Paulin also asked why Mr Clark had not employed security personnel for the wake and why he chose to drink during the function, leaving his 73-year-old mother, Patricia Clark, and bar manager Jessie Matheson in charge.

Ms Matheson said the brawl started when a patched gang member entered the bar and was ''thrown out'' by another patron.

Sgt Paulin asked Mr Clark's mother whether the pub had a policy on gang patches, to which she replied: ''I'm nervous of dark people for a start, so I wouldn't encourage them.''

Mr Clark said he was initially reluctant to host the wake but relatives of the deceased promised to keep it under control.

The deceased had been a Heffs patron for most of his life, had worked at the bar, and his wish for half his ashes to be scattered around the premises was fulfilled upon his death, Mr Clark said.

''I couldn't say no. I spoke to the family and says [sic] there will be no gang patches whatsoever. I says [sic] I don't want one scrap of trouble,'' Mr Clark said.

As duty manager on the night, Ms Matheson was charged with breaching the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, to which she pleaded guilty and was convicted.

Mr Clark said several incidents following the wake were caused by a male patron, related to the deceased, who became aggressive towards police because he was ''disgusted'' Ms Matheson had been charged.

Mr Clark said he told the patron to ''stop his nonsense, pull his horns in and grow up''.

He said Heffs had always been a rough pub, but since taking the lease two years ago he and other staff had worked hard to improve it, and gave ''stern warnings'' to problematic patrons, cleaning up the hotel ''something wicked''.

Sgt Paulin said Mr Clark promised to reverse the pub's reputation as a ''Mongrel Mob hangout'' in September last year but by January, police had dealt with four incidents at the hotel.

In May, after the gang brawl, Sgt Paulin issued a final warning and yesterday he said Mr Clark had failed to make any significant changes.

Other licensed premises in South Dunedin did not cause problems. It was revealed yesterday Mr Clark did not apply to be Heffs licensee because of a drink-driving conviction.

His mother was the licensee as sole director of PC Bar Ltd, of which Mr Clark was the sole shareholder.

Judge Hole said the authority's written decision should be issued before Christmas. It would also address the applications by Mr Clark and Ms Matheson for the renewal of their general manager certificates.

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