Decision on The Famous Grouse's liquor licence expected in January

The hearing aims to determine if The Famous Grouse's liquor licence should be renewed. Photo:...
The hearing aims to determine if The Famous Grouse's liquor licence should be renewed. Photo: Daniel Alvey
A hearing to determine whether The Famous Grouse hotel's liquor licence should be renewed has wrapped up after two days.

At the hearing on Tuesday and Wednesday, police, Selwyn District Council licensing inspector and the Canterbury medical officer of health opposed the renewal of the Lincoln hotel's licence.

The agencies will now prepare their written submissions by November 29, while the licence applicant's submissions are due by December 6.

The Selwyn District Licensing Committee's decision to renew the licence or not is expected in late January.

This afternoon chief licensing inspector Malcolm Johnston's provided noise complaints received by the district council and an "excessive noise directive" directing the hotel to immediately reduce the noise to a reasonable level. 

Johnston told the committee he visited the hotel on May 10 and described it as "an absolute eye opener".

The driver of this party bus off-loaded his cargo of pub crawlers outside the main door of a...
The driver of this party bus off-loaded his cargo of pub crawlers outside the main door of a hotel instead of using the pub’s car park around the back. Photo: Star News
He went back the following week and did not observe many issues.  

Johnston also provided a photo of a party bus parked on the kerb outside the hotel. The photo, taken by the Selwyn Times, was sent to Johnston by a colleague.  

He said he did not have a problem with the staff and the duty manager had a “difficult” job when the hotel was busy. 

Earlier today the committee heard from a police officer called to the Mr Grouse event on August 17, when a male smashed glasses which cut a woman's face and a person's wrist.

Constable Lucy Brears said she arrested the male man but did not charge him as the injured patrons were his friends and did not want him charged.  

Brears told the committee she considered charging him with indecent exposure but did not. She said ambulance staff described the scene at Mr Grouse as “chaos”.

The committee was shown CCTV footage from the night. Hotel general manager Kurt Young was asked how the event was organised and marketed. 

Young said they used a set of procedures from previous Mr Grouse events. The management team would meet before the event to discuss how it would be run, but the ultimate responsibility on the night sat with the duty manager.   

Young said the event was open to anyone, not just students.  

The bus parked outside The Famous Grouse. Photo: Star News
The bus parked outside The Famous Grouse. Photo: Star News
He said after the patrons were injured the event was cancelled and prize-winners were contacted later.  

Police said they made several visits to the hotel last year.

The first was in March when Constable Matthew Barraclough checked the hotel was meeting the Covid-19 requirements.  

Barraclough said during the visit he spoke to a man sleeping on a park bench on Gerald St who said he had been drinking at the hotel. 

Barraclough was not sure how much alcohol the man had consumed but said he was intoxicated.

He said the hotel had no way to keep track of the number of patrons. When he visited, hotel staff told him there were about 60 people on the premises, but his assessment was about 100.  

During another routine visit in October, Sergeant Melissa Arnold was doing a SCAB test to determine how intoxicated a patron was.  

The SCAB test is used in the hospitality industry and by police to see how intoxicated a person...
The SCAB test is used in the hospitality industry and by police to see how intoxicated a person is. Image: Te Whatu Ora
The duty manager, known as Sandy, interrupted Arnold and told the patron she was assessing to go back inside, drink some water and the hotel would organise transport.  

Arnold said Sandy's behaviour “shocked” her. Part of the interaction was filmed by police. Sandy is no longer employed at the hotel.  

Arnold has conducted three more checks at the hotel since September and found no issues. But she noted there were very few students present.  

The Lincoln Club operates The Famous Grouse through its company Famous Grouse 2009 Ltd. The club has about 500 members and promotes itself as 'the club in a pub'. 

A number of club members are attending the hearing in support of the hotel.  

The committee is expected to hear from more police who have done checks or attended callouts at the hotel and see more video evidence.  

Day 1 of the hearing 
During the first day of the liquor licence hearing on Tuesday, police raised concerns about The Famous Grouse's management. 

Police also cited a number of incidents involving students and intoxicated patrons.

Famous Grouse 2009 Ltd director Lynn Townsend was asked about the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 and some of the hotel's advertising.   

Lynn Townsend.
Lynn Townsend.
Sergeant David Robertson asked Townsend to name of the act the hotel was licenced under. Townsend could not recall it and admitted to committee chair Merelyn Redstone his knowledge of the act could be better.   

“Yes, I have to accept the fact I probably haven’t made myself aware of the new act,” he said.    

He also acknowledged some of the hotel's advertising, including a bull riding event and silent disco, was aimed at students.   

Townsend said he would spend a full night at the hotel about once a month and never on student nights.   

The committee was shown a number of videos, including some from a “Mr Grouse” event in August last year.   

In one of the videos, a man can be seen dancing naked on the runway. He knocked over glasses and injured two female patrons, resulting in a police callout. The officers who attended are expected to give evidence during the hearing.   

Senior Constable Genevieve Craddock told the committee the hotel was lucky to only receive a warning following the event.  

But the hotel's barrister, Amy Keir, argued Craddock could not assume the man was intoxicated as she was not present on the night.   

Craddock said she had been told by the attending officers the man was arrested and was intoxicated.   

Townsend said the hotel was not proud of the Mr Grouse event and had made a decision not to host a Mr Grouse or Miss Grouse night again.   

“We accept the Mr Grouse competition was a disaster ... something we are not proud of and that won’t happen again.” 

Kurt Young.
Kurt Young.
On Tuesday afternoon, the general manager of the hotel Kurt Young was questioned by the committee and three opposing agencies on his responsibilities as manager.  

Roberston asked Young whether he knew the man who got on the stage was committing an offence, by being naked and acting offensively.   

Young said in hindsight he would have “possibly” done something different.   

The word “possibly” was a concern for Redstone, who said some of the answers being given to the committee were “halfhearted”.  

Young told the committee when he started in 2021, he was trespassing two to three people a week for various behaviour issues including fake IDs. The number has since dropped.   

Young said in recent months the hotel has taken measures to reduce the amount of noise, including stopping people from drinking in the beer garden at the back of the hotel at 9pm.   

Young conceded in his evidence brief submitted before the hearing about 10 nights a year can become “chaotic”.   

Robertson responded: "The word chaotic may have come as a concern to the committee.” And asked if Young had ever lost control of a situation.  

Young responded: “Chaotic wasn’t the best choice of word.”    

The Famous Grouse. Photo: Supplied
The Famous Grouse. Photo: Supplied
The committee heard how Craddock and district council chief licensing inspector Malcolm Johnston monitored the outside of the hotel one night without alerting staff.   

They conducted the survey on a Wednesday night, which is a popular night for students at the pub. 

Video from the night showed students running around the outside of the pub at closing time and climbing onto a ute.  

Craddock told the committee, security and hotel general manager Kurt Young were outside the bar watching.

Craddock said they did not attempt to stop the students who were shouting, urinating, and running over the road. 

At one point, the Grouse courtesy van was observed honking at patrons who were on the road.  

Young can also be heard in one video telling people who had jumped on the back of a ute to "get off".   

Craddock warned hotel management about hosting student events on Wednesday nights after problems with other pubs in Springston and Yaldhurst. 

Craddock said she was concerned about the inexperience of staff and the amount of turnover. 

But Craddock said she has not been made aware of any issues of intoxication at the hotel since May this year.