Bar staff 'dreading Easter again'

Grant Lawrie
Grant Lawrie
Abuse copped from angry patrons demanding drinks last Easter has staff at Wanaka's Speight's Ale House dreading working the holiday again this year, bar co-owner Grant Lawrie says.

The establishment is one of seven Wanaka bars - and one Queenstown bar - which will have applications for special liquor licences on Good Friday and Easter Sunday considered by the new Queenstown Lakes district licensing committee next week.

Reaction from patrons to Easter trading restrictions at Wanaka's Speight's Ale House last year was ''terrible'' and staff members were ''dreading Easter again'' as a result, Mr Lawrie said.

''Our staff were getting abused because people just don't understand. People are sitting there and you say 'You've had a drink, you've ordered your meal and now you have to leave as soon as you've finished it' type scenario. Those sorts of things just leave a very sour taste in the mouth for a lot of people.

''They're left confused. They think it's our fault ... They all think that we're setting the rule, which is incorrect.''

A meeting of Wanaka licensees was held yesterday to establish a ''common approach'' ahead of their individual special licence hearings on Monday and Tuesday.

Mr Lawrie said the group's licence applications were all based around an ''Event Wanaka'' concept, rather than the individual events taking place in the area at Easter such as the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.

''The whole town is going to be an event in a way. It may not fit in with the whole full legislation of what an event is deemed to be, but if you really look at it there's got to be some common-sense approach being displayed here.''

He was disappointed the issue remained unresolved so close to Easter, despite bar owners submitting their applications about eight weeks ago.

''Nobody's very hopeful of anything happening in a positive manner. It should have been dealt with before now. We shouldn't even be having to go to a hearing.''

Criticising bar owners for wanting to make a profit at Easter was unfair, Mr Lawrie said.

''We've got to profit from it now ... because we'll get to May and June and the place is dead.

''It's a double standard in a way because you can open and you've got to pay your staff time and a-half and a day in lieu but you can't have the ability to earn money.''

Queenstown Lakes district councillors Ella Lawton and Calum MacLeod also attended yesterday's licensee meeting.

Cr Lawton said while she supported the bar owners' position and hoped they could achieve a positive result, the limited time left before Easter made it difficult for the council to have any influence over the outcome.

''I hope that we can have more of a discussion earlier on next year. I'd like to see some sort of progress made so that we don't have to challenge that [liquor law] each time.''

Cr MacLeod was reluctant to comment because he was personally affected by the laws as the owner of Wanaka's Cinema Paradiso business. However, he shared Cr Lawton's view on starting the ball rolling much earlier for Easter 2015.

The liquor licensing hearings take place from 9am at the St John meeting room, in Frankton, on Monday and at Edgewater, in Wanaka, on Tuesday.

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