Retro's future in hands of tribunal

JOEL MAXWELL
Last updated 08:19 08/11/2012
Bar

Uncertain future: The Retro Bar has fought to retain its licence in a three day Liquor Licensing Authority hearing.

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Kapiti Observer

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A picture of a dysfunctional late- night Kapiti Lights has been revealed in a three-day hearing to decide the future of the Retro Bar.

This week Retro Bar management and owners fought in a Liquor Licensing Authority hearing to keep licences to operate.

Retro was seeking to renew its licence - opposed by police, who in a separate application asked to have the bar's licence cancelled or suspended.

Police applied for bar manager David Aitken, 21, to have his general manager's licence cancelled or suspended; they also opposed renewal of owner Mark Spiekerman's general manager's licence.

The police case included 17 instances during which officers alleged they found 36 intoxicated patrons in or around Retro, which is licensed till 3am.

Much of the argument centred around the definition of intoxication - with Retro staff using police-supplied criteria for judging how affected people are by alcohol.

Sergeant Al Lawn questioned the experience of Mr Aitken to judge whether people are intoxicated, and staff training for dealing with largely late-night patrons.

"They target people either knowingly or by default that is a demographic that is the hardest to manage."

If they target the market knowingly then they must take responsibility for the resulting problems, he said.

"It's the police that pick up the pieces and the community that bear the brunt for not doing their job properly."

He said the evidence presented by officers over three days was "very damning" against Retro Bar management.

"These are back-foot people, they are reactive [to problems]."

Retro legal counsel Jonathan Scragg said while there were 17 incidents in the police application, they spanned 44 weeks and did not represent every time police visited Retro during that period.

"This is not a case that every time police go to the Retro Bar there is a problem."

He said police had reluctantly accepted that the bar had improved its management.

This includes a one-way-door policy not allowing new patrons in after 1.30am, a new dress code and heightened temporary fencing at the entrance to the bar.

He said the hearing had given a clear picture of Kapiti Light's late- night problems.

"It's a challenging environment. Allegations of disorderly conduct, littering and violence have been presented as occurring in the Kapiti Lights area."

There are two other bars in the complex, as well as people reportedly drinking in cars at the Lights carpark area, and arriving after preloading at home, Mr Scragg said.

"It would be wrong for the authority to react to this situation by saying, 'well Kapiti Lights complex has problems, that's all the fault of the Retro Bar'."

The hearing and police application follows the deaths of Izak Millanta in August, and Sean Strongman-Lintern in September after assaults at the complex.

Police witnesses at the hearing described multiple instances of alleged intoxicated patrons. Retro contested 14 of the 17 alleged incidents. They included police dog handler Senior Constable Paul Fleck, who said he was called "on a number of occasions" to help officers with the bar and surrounding complex.

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On March 18 he was conducting a routine patrol in the Lights when he was given "the nod" by a Retro doorman for help.

He was asked to deal with a couple who were leaving the bar and were being abused by other patrons as Mr Fleck arrived.

The patrons seemed intoxicated and in his opinion there could be a fight or "some sort of violence".

The male from the couple was irrational and used inappropriate language when Mr Fleck took him away from the bar for questioning.

"At this point I told him he was under arrest. During this arrest a flick knife was produced from his pocket. Obviously a struggle ensued and he was restrained and later he was taken back to the Kapiti Police Station."

Mr Fleck, who had been "quite furious", said he returned to the bar later that night and spoke to the person in charge and door staff about the bar's security and management shortcomings.

However, in his submission, Mr Aitken said he had never in fact been approached by Mr Fleck - and had never met him throughout his three years in hospitality.

He was never told about the incident, or the alleged intoxication of the patron by Mr Fleck, he said. The person arrested by Mr Fleck visited the bar before the incident and since, and had not caused problems.

"The issues that arose were after the patron left Retro Bar and was confronted by Constable Fleck. I did not witness an assessment being undertaken by Constable Fleck, as I was inside at the time, but I came out from the bar to see Constable Fleck making an arrest of the patron and punching him in the head."

Mr Aitken disagreed with the constable's assessment of the man as intoxicated - a common theme during the hearing as liquor law does not define intoxication.

Meanwhile, the impact of the two deaths linked to the Lights complex appears to have turned patrons off socialising in the area.

Owner Mark Spiekerman said the deaths have had a significant impact on late-night patronage in the Lights complex and the bar had taken a "big hit" financially.

Mr Scragg said his clients did not defend some of the incidents presented by police and accepted a suspension was likely.

Mr Lawn said if the licences were renewed then police would like a 1am closing time and a suspension that sends a "clear warning" over breaches of liquor law.

A three-man panel will consider the submissions and supply a written finding, which could include suspension of the licences. It is hoped that a decision will be made this year.

111 - WHERE?

Number of disorderly, drunk custody and liquor related calls to police within 50 metres of:

Retro For 2011: 19

For 2012: 25

Monteiths

For 2011: 8

For 2012: 7

Within 100m

Retro

For 2011: 74

For 2012: 72

Monteiths

For 2011: 44

For 2012: 46

- The combined 500m radius of both bars accounted for 54 per cent of Paraparaumu's emergency calls for disorder, drunk custody and liquor offences over the two years.

Drift factor

A "drift factor" is at the heart of late-night problems at Kapiti Lights, claim police.

Speaking on Monday at the Liquor Licensing Authority hearing for Retro Bar, Senior Sergeant Alasdair Macmillan said last December police organised an operation to target the "drift factor" in Paraparaumu's CBD.

"This is the term police use to describe persons who congregate around the Kapiti Lights complex, and more specifically around Retro from 1am onwards."

This resource-intensive operation tied up officers around one single licensed premises, he said.

Mr Macmillan said the drift factor was likely caused by the difference in closing times between bars in Kapiti.

"The other hotels and establishments around the Kapiti area close between 12pm and 1am. The Retro opens till 3am, so therefore there is a drift towards that area."

He said it came from as far north as Otaki, and as far south as Porirua.

- Kapiti Observer

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