Bar owner stands by plan for Magog anniversary party

Bertie Burleigh
Bertie Burleigh

Peggy Gordon's bar owner Bertie Burleigh has defended his reputation and ability to safely host a Magog anniversary celebration.

Yesterday the District Licensing Committee held a hearing at the civic centre about Mr Burleigh's special licence for the motorcycle club's 40th anniversary concert.

Mr Burleigh's plans for the party include closing and fencing off Egmont St so that a stage can be set up for Devilskin, Sticky Filth, The Nod, Bullfrog Rata and Shayn Wills to play to a 1200-strong crowd.

Mr Burleigh faced opposition to the application from licensing inspectors, police and members of the public.

He spent most of the hearing explaining repeatedly how and why there would be none of the excess noise, violence and intimidation by gang members, drink-driving, alcohol-related harm, disorder and mess left on the street that his detractors were concerned about.

Senior Constable alcohol harm reduction/licensing Cheryl McGrath told the committee that police opposed the application partly because the Magogs are classed as a criminal gang and may draw other criminal gangs to the party, and also because Mr Burleigh was not a suitable applicant for the licence.

She presented data from Alco-Link, which surveys moderately or extremely intoxicated people when they are arrested.

In 2012 and 2013, 24 people were arrested and said their last drink was at Peggy Gordon's. Serious violence offences committed by people who said they had been at the pub doubled from five in 2012 to 11 in 2013.

The trend warranted more monitoring and conversation with police rather than the granting of a special licence to serve more alcohol, she said. Police were not able to provide comparable statistics for other bars in the CBD.

But Mr Burleigh said Peggy Gordon's was a member of the council's Mellow Yellow city safety programme and the security staff at the bar rang police whenever there was trouble and kept order in the surrounding area.

He said he had successfully run 17 street parties since 2008 with no arrests or trouble.

Every special licence he had ever asked for had been approved and the only difference with the anniversary event was that it was for the motorcycle club.

"The whole kerfuffle is about the word ‘Magog' and that is entirely outside of my domain. My domain is to put on a concert and run it properly, and have alcohol - which we've always had."

Magog president Russell Gilmer told the committee the Magogs were an incorporated society, not a criminal gang, and he did not know why parliament had designated them as such.

He said the club's 16 members had moved on from the 70s when part of their aim was to be antisocial. He also said it was ironic that the police were opposing the application when six Magog members had worked as security during the eight public Rugby World Cup parties in 2011.

Vetro owner Gavin Hayes said he was worried for the safety of his shop and the surrounding area which had been left covered in vomit, urine and alcohol after another street party run by Mr Burleigh.

Dr Stuart Bramhall said she had worked as a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Taranaki Base Hospital and had dealt with and treated teenagers, women and children who were experiencing severe trauma because of gang victimisation and intimidation.

Her primary concern was the location of the party and she said the party would not worry her if gang patches were not worn or alcohol was not served.

She said she understood the Magog's may be "in their 60s and past it" and might not be involved in criminal activities, but she could only take the police and parliament's assessment that they were a gang and assumed they made money from illicit drugs, protection and extortion schemes.

The committee's decision is due in the next nine days.

Taranaki Daily News