Brothel rapped over drain death

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 10/10/2012
MAY HAVE DROWNED: Peter Black, 43, died after falling headfirst into a roadside drain near Te Papa.
MAY HAVE DROWNED: Peter Black, 43, died after falling headfirst into a roadside drain near Te Papa.
BODY FOUND: A police officer at the drain near Te Papa where Peter Black's body was found.
ANDREW GORRIE/Fairfax NZ
BODY FOUND: A police officer at the drain near Te Papa where Peter Black's body was found.

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Wellington strip club The Mermaid Bar has been forced to close for a night after it served alcohol to an intoxicated man who later died in a drain.

The adjoining Splash Club brothel will be forced to close for two nights.

Peter Black, 43, died early on Saturday, January 14 after falling headfirst into a roadside drain near Te Papa while trying to retrieve his keys.

His body remained in the drain for 30 hours before it was discovered by customers of the Harbourside Market.

A coroner's hearing has yet to be held but it is believed he may have drowned after being unable to free himself from the confined space.

Mr Black had spent the night before his death drinking with friends, at the burlesque-themed cocktail bar Hooch, where he was a regular.

But yesterday police confirmed that Mr Black had also been drinking at Courtenay Place strip club The Mermaid Bar and attached brothel The Splash Club - owned by sex industry tycoons Michael and John Chow - for several hours before his death.

Last month police applied to suspend the liquor licences of both premises following their investigation into Mr Black's death.

Before the scheduled Liquor Licensing Authority hearing on October 1 police and the clubs agreed to a penalty, with The Mermaid Bar's licence to be suspended for 24 hours from 5pm on Friday, October 19, and The Splash Club's for 48 hours from the night before.

The Mermaid Bar's breach involved Mr Black taking alcohol he had purchased into The Splash Club, while the Splash Club's breach was for serving an intoxicated person.

Police will also meet with the club's directors and duty managers to discuss how to abide by the Sale of Liquor Act.

In confirming the suspension, the Liquor Licensing Authority noted that it was the first appearance for both licensees in more than "10 years' trouble-free trading".

The penalties are a blow for the Chows, who have raised concerns about rival strip club Calendar Girls' eligibility for its own liquor licence.

Police also oppose Calendar Girls' licence and have appealed to the High Court against its approval.

Wellington alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Terry Fraser said police welcomed the decision to suspend the licences of the Chow-owned clubs.

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“The tragedy highlights that bars and individuals have to take responsibility for people drinking too much.

“The decision by the authority is a strong reminder that when licensees or managers fall short of their legal or professional obligations, they can expect police to actively follow these breaches up through the Liquor Licensing Authority."

Licensees and duty managers needed to place greater emphasis on screening people for signs of intoxication, both at the entrance and on the premises, he said.

But drinkers also needed to take responsibility for their actions, as did the wider community in reducing the damage caused by alcohol.

A police spokesman said further details about Mr Black's movements during the night could not be released before the inquest.

Police were satisfied that no other bars Mr Black had visited had breached the act, he said.

The Chow brothers and their lawyer, Max Tait, refused to comment.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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