Renewal of hotel’s licence not a certainty

The Heriot Hotel may be under threat of closure due to alcohol licensing compliance issues. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
The Heriot Hotel may be under threat of closure due to alcohol licensing compliance issues. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON

A rural West Otago hotel will discover its fate next week, following a tense licensing renewal hearing in Tapanui yesterday.

Landlord James Thomas Riordan has run the Heriot Hotel since 1992, but may have to close its doors for good if the Clutha District Licensing Committee refuses to renew the remote hostelry’s licence, or his manager’s certificate, both of which are under review.

Although Mr Riordan has previously enjoyed unopposed renewal of both licences during his 28 years at the hotel, Gore and Balclutha police voiced strong opposition on this occasion.

Prevention Sergeant Jason Leadley, of Balclutha, presented the police case, calling on four police witnesses to detail recorded incidents of non-compliance with alcohol licensing laws, and related issues, during the past three years.

Those included 12 instances of drink-driving Gore police had linked to the hotel; failure to provide adequate food for patrons; failure to identify and manage intoxicated patrons; an instance of making an off-licence sale after legal hours; and an officer identifying Mr Riordan as intoxicated while on duty.

In his defence, Mr Riordan read a prepared affidavit, in which he rejected or gave exculpatory account of several of the incidents.

He denied ever being "impaired" while on duty.

Sgt Leadley then challenged Mr Riordan to use a recognised method for licensees to identify intoxicated persons, to assess an individual he went on to describe.

"Their eyes were glazing, they were swaying . . . they couldn’t hold eye contact and they appeared vacant and . . . distant. How would you assess someone [in that condition]?"

Mr Riordan replied, "Well, naturally I’d say they were impaired".

Senior Sergeant Clinton Wright, of Alexandra, had earlier used the description in regards to Mr Riordan’s own state of intoxication, during a hotel check on July 2, 2018.

Lawyer Scott Williamson represented Mr Riordan during the four-hour hearing.

He acknowledged some of the hotel’s recent operational practices had not been "ideal", but were in line with running a "country pub".

Mr Riordan needed the renewed licences to enable him to sell the pub, as he had been attempting to do for the past two years, Mr Williamson said.

"If he doesn’t get his duty licence then the hotel closes and, with that, so does a part of Heriot."

The committee expects to release its decision by next Friday.

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