Hairy start to bar ownership

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014
the powder room
GRANT BRYANT/ Fairfax NZ

LICENCE OPPOSED: The Powder Room in Queenstown's Eureka Arcade.

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Drug-snorting DJs, naked customers and a drunk duty manager became a "nightmare" for a first-time bar owner in Queenstown.

The Powder Room, owned by Sydney-based ex-pat Kiwi lawyer Rajesh Patel, had a hearing yesterday for a new temporary liquor licence with Queenstown's District Licensing Committee.

Since late last year the Eureka Arcade bar has been run on a series of temporary authority licences, as its permanent liquor licence has been vigorously opposed by police.

Last month Powder Room lawyers successfully argued that the matter should be heard by the Alcohol Licensing Authority.

Retired district court judge and District Licensing Committee chairman Bill Unwin said Patel's introduction to bar ownership must have been "a nightmare".

Footage was shown of a barman, who was on a trial night for employment, crouching behind the bar and chopping lines of powder on to a clipboard, which he then snorted and shared with a DJ.

The barman had not been hired and the DJ had not been re-booked. "There's zero tolerance for drugs," Patel said.

Sergeant Linda Stevens said that on November 23 last year a customer stripped naked in the bar and, after knocking into another customer, a fight started.

The man who threw punches was arrested, along with an associate of the naked man. The man charged with fighting received diversion, while the associate received a pre-charge warning.

On December 10 Sergeant Kate Pirovano checked the bar and while talking to a temporary duty manager's noticed that her eyes were glazed.

The manager was breath tested and returned a reading above the legal driving limit of 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath. Patel said staff used to be able to have three drinks during a shift, but the bar now had a zero drinks policy.

Other incidents police noted were food not being available for customers during a check because stale supplies had been thrown out, and a promotion that breached licensing codes because it said a bungy jump could be won with every drink instead of any purchase.

Patel admitted that there had been teething problems with the bar, which he had been to twice since becoming an 85 per cent shareholder late last year.

Unwin reserved the committee's decision but said it would be issued within two weeks.

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