Bottle shop wins re-hearing, ban remains

Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012

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A liquor store and its manager, who lost their licences after three stings, have won a re-hearing but been told the "end result" won't change.

Last month Pakuranga's Thirsty Liquor had its off-licence cancelled by the Liquor Licensing Authority who also revoked the general manager certificate of lone shareholder Ming Zhao.

On 12 July a 16-year-old was able to buy a four pack of RTDs without identification from Zhao during a controlled purchase sting.

When police confronted Zhao he claimed the teenager had stolen the booze. When told she entered with $20 and came out with the exact change, Zhao then claimed she had left the note at the counter and had stolen the change.

Two months earlier both Zhao and the store had been caught out during another controlled purchase. When authorities went to see Zhao, the named manager on duty that day, he wasn't present. As a result Thirsty Liquor lost its licence for six days, and Zhao lost his for six weeks.

The authority said the three controlled purchase failures within two months showed the "licensee and duty manager are persistently flouting" the laws.

Zhao appealed the decision this month claiming he hadn't been informed of the hearing, so was unable to appear and give evidence.
 
He told the authority he had phoned them on 18 October 2012 - to confirm his hearing was to take place the following day - only to learn it had already happened. He had not received a letter informing him of a date change because his postal address was not the one listed with the authority, the decision notes.

Zhao went as far as to accurately describe the voice of the authority member he had spoken to, which the authority accepted.

With "considerable reservation" the authority conceded Zhao may not have been properly informed of the hearing date. The authority said there was "no merit" in Zhao's defence that the volunteer involved in the sting had stolen from him.

Information from the volunteer involved in the sting showed Zhao was "watching war movies on his computer" when he sold alcohol to her without first checking her identification.

"The defence raised by the licensee and general manager has no merit. Indeed, the more Ming Zhao gave evidence, the worse the position became," the decision reads.

The authority ordered a re-hearing, but only to reconsider the penalties

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