Liquor licence news removes ‘cloud’

Beaumont Hotel proprietors Alison Mills and Gunni Egilsson say they plan to remain in business...
Beaumont Hotel proprietors Alison Mills and Gunni Egilsson say they plan to remain in business now a licensing hearing seems likely to be cancelled. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
After a year of it hanging over their heads, the owners of a rural South Otago pub reacted to news of a likely liquor licence renewal this week with a mixture of anger and relief.

Beaumont Hotel owners Alison Mills and Gunni Egilsson said they had been "living under a cloud" of stress — and frustration with authorities — since July last year, when they received a summary notice that police would oppose their application, made in March.

Mrs Mills said the notice had been "blunt" and provided no explanation for what could prove a terminal blow for the hotel, which was already struggling because of curtailed Covid-19 lockdown trading conditions.

Signed by then Prevention Sergeant Jason Leadley, of Balclutha, the notice states only: "Police oppose this application."

Mrs Mills said attempts since to clarify what was behind the objection had failed, leaving her and Mr Egilsson stressed and unable to plan for the future of their business and its five staff.

The situation came to a head late last month, when the couple were informed they must attend a hearing at which details of the police’s objections would be given, scheduled for April 22 in Lawrence.

However, on Monday the Otago Daily Times learnt police had removed their opposition to the renewal, meaning the hearing was no longer likely to proceed.

A police spokesman said police initially opposed the hotel’s licence renewal, but various factors that led to the opposition were no longer relevant and so it had been dropped.

Clutha District Licensing Committee chairman Cr Bruce Vollweiler said although the cancellation remained to be formally confirmed, police had informed him they had withdrawn their opposition, making a hearing unnecessary.

Although Mrs Mills was relieved by the news when informed by the ODT on Monday afternoon, she questioned why it had taken authorities so long to come to the decision.

"We’ve had this hanging over all our heads for nine months now, which has been a whole lot of stress for nothing.

"I feel really angry at the lack of clear communication from police and the [Clutha District] council, and the lack of a proactive, co-operative approach to whatever this licensing issue was.

"All it needed was someone to come and talk to us, and we’d have happily addressed it. We’ve a good record of looking after our customers carefully, and we’ve never had to call the police out in 11 years of business," Mrs Mills said.

Although the couple had been considering closing the hotel due to the uncertainty of the situation, she now expected to remain open, she said.

"We were getting sick of it all. But we’ll see what we can do to adapt and keep the business a going concern."

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