Bar owner takes issue with police approach

A Wanaka bar owner says the town’s police are more interested in "making busts" than working collaboratively to improve his operation.

Giving evidence at an Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (Arla) hearing in Queenstown yesterday, La La Land owner Daniel Taiaroa said his meetings with police had been like "going to the principal’s office for a dressing down".

Police have applied for the bar — an upstairs venue in Ardmore St with capacity for 50 patrons — to have its on-licence temporarily suspended.

Judge Kevin Kelly and member Judith Moorhead heard evidence from three Wanaka police officers about four incidents at the bar over the past two years.

In one, officers were confronted by a "severely intoxicated" male patron who became "belligerent and argumentative" while they were speaking to the man’s friend.

In a second incident, its general manager was assaulted by a father and son, who also smashed his cellphone and threatened to throw him off its balcony.

On another occasion, officers responding to a report of a fight at the bar found the duty manager was working on his own.

Senior Sergeant Miriam Reddington said that in the most recent incident, a drunk female patron was "obnoxious and unco-operative" when she asked to speak to her outside.

On the same night, she had also found that a staff member checking patrons at the door was not certified to work in a door security role.

Four such incidents in the space of two years were "unnecessary and excessive", Snr Sgt Reddington said.

While giving evidence, Mr Taiaroa played CCTV footage he argued showed the police’s evidence was inaccurate in relation to one of the incidents, and showed his staff’s actions in another incident were acceptable in the circumstances.

However, he accepted the female patron encountered by Snr Sgt Reddington was intoxicated, and had "slipped through the cracks".

He later learned she had "pre-loaded" with alcohol just before entering the bar and her "fast, downhill spiral" into intoxication occurred about half an hour later.

"That’s the danger of preloading — we get absolutely zero benefit and then get left with the mess."

Mr Taiaroa, who also owns Bungalow bar in Queenstown and another bar in Christchurch, said he had "tightened up" the bar’s operation since buying it last year.

There were always at least two people working, and the staff member who worked as a "door host" on weekend nights had obtained private security certification soon after police raised it as a concern.

Judge Kelly reserved the panel’s decision.

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