Tavern hits back after hours cut

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012
The Embankment tavern
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

PUNISHED: The Embankment tavern in Ferry Rd has had its opening hours cut and management say they will have to lay off staff.

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The co-owner of a Christchurch tavern ordered to close two hours earlier for repeated Liquor Act breaches says the bar has been unfairly targeted by police, with allegations of alcohol abuse "blown out of proportion".

The Embankment, in Ferry Rd, was ordered by the Liquor Licensing Authority (LLA) to stop serving alcohol at 2am and implement a one-way-door policy, where people can remain on the premises but new patrons cannot enter from 12.30am.

The tavern previously closed at 4am, with a one-way-door policy from 3am.

Embankment co-owner Cheryl Edwards accepted the tavern had "the odd bit of trouble" after the earthquakes, but most bars did.

She said the early closure had "cut out" many of their regulars, and three staff would have to be made redundant.

Inspector Peter Cooper said police made "no apologies" for targeting premises that needed to improve their host responsibilities.

Police presented 25 allegations of breaches of the Liquor Act to a LLA hearing last month, where the authority also considered an application for liquor licence renewal by the pub's owner, Mantell Investments.

The allegations included intoxicated people being on the premises, disorder, a patron taken to hospital with an injured nose and a "disaster" where a patron was found in the toilets at 5.30am, well after the bar had closed.

Fourteen of the 25 allegations were upheld.

The LLA's decision, released this week, said The Embankment had been owned by the licensee since 2006 and, until the September 2010 earthquake, was operated "reasonably satisfactorily".

"They are situated in a lower socio-economic area of Christchurch and for that reason have always attracted a ‘rough' element of patrons."

After the earthquake, however, it attracted a much larger number of patrons, which made it difficult to manage, the LLA said.

"The new patrons comprised various groups of persons who normally would not socialise with each other. Inevitably, tensions arose."

Experienced staff left because of the earthquakes.

The LLA took into account that things had improved in the past six months because of the clientele having "stabilised".

"The disparate groups which descended upon the premises after the earthquakes have now, no doubt, found their own particular places to socialise."

However, the LLA said 14 statutory breaches over a period of about 17 months was "inexcusable". It renewed the tavern's liquor licence but with the new closing time, and ordered a six-day liquor licence suspension from 7am on January 7.

Edwards said she and business partner Marty Mantell were disappointed with the decision, but were unlikely to appeal.

She said there had been only two fights in the bar since the September 2010 quake, and many of the tensions were caused by associates of a staff manager who no longer worked there.

The man found in the toilets was simply tired from working.

The Embankment now had better security and staff, as well as a dress code that banned hoodies and gang colours.

"It's a great place. All our regulars, and anybody who comes here, feel safe and happy to be here," she said.

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"The police have blown it out of proportion."

Cooper said it required a "pattern of offending" for police to take a bar before the LLA and problems at the Embankment were more than "isolated incidents".

"We don't pick on bars per se [but] if an establishment begins to show up on our ‘bad measures' . . . then yes, we pay attention to them," he said.

Bad measures included drink-drivers who had been at the bar and incidents of disorder and intoxication on the premises, he said.

- The Press

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