Christchurch's Kaizuka cafe battle a 'tangled web of red tape': Mike Yardley

STACY/SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ.

Kaizuka Eatery and Garden Bar was issued a full on-licence in March 2014 and operated on the licence for about six months before a visit from council licensing officers.

OPINION: The Japanese juniper, Juniperus chinensis, more commonly known as Kaizuka, is notable for its twisted contorted branches.

It's uncannily apt, given the tangled web of red tape that is strangulating the livelihood of the Kaizuka Cafe & Garden Bar in Cashmere, Christchurch. As reported, Dwayne and Tiffany Vaughan's Centaurus Rd business, has been embroiled in a year-long battle with the Christchurch City Council over its licensing arrangements, and the fatuous expectation that Kaizuka provides 62 more carparks if they wish to continue operating as is.

I spent the weekend getting a handle on this head-swirling imbroglio, liaising with the Vaughans and their general manager, Aaron Scott.

Kaizuka Cafe in Centaurus Rd is closing over issues with its liquor licence and number of car parking spaces.
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAXNZ

Kaizuka Cafe in Centaurus Rd is closing over issues with its liquor licence and number of car parking spaces.

Kaizuka had been a Gardenways store. In 2009, the Vaughans received resource consent to add a café to the business, followed by a BYO licence. The 2010/11 earthquakes destroyed the viability of the gardening and giftware ventures, impelling the Vaughans to go full-tilt on the hospitality front with their 800 square metre venue fast morphing into a highly-valued community hub for local residents.

The unsold gardening stock, including those Japanese junipers, was suitably repurposed for the upgraded outdoor seating area. In 2013, the business successfully applied for an on-licence, they added a bar service area, and the licence was renewed in March 2014.

It's pretty shameless for the council's regulatory compliance acting manager, Fiona Proudfoot, to claim that Kaizuka made changes to its premises two months after the licence was granted.

Dwayne and Tiffany Vaughan say they're closing their business following a year-long battle with Christchurch City Council.
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

Dwayne and Tiffany Vaughan say they're closing their business following a year-long battle with Christchurch City Council.

Kaizuka is adamant that never deceived or intended to deceive the council, nor did they make any changes without council notification.

The enlarged bar service area was discussed with the council's licensing inspector, Allison Houston, when she visited the venue before renewing the on-licence in March 2014. Aaron Scott says she took photos of the bar and full premises in February.

I have a copy of the on-licence issued in March 2014, which doesn't stipulate a defined licensed area within the premises.

Scott told me that with every licence application, Kaizuka always attached a copy of the original architect drawings of the whole premises, because their applications pertained to the whole 800sqm. But suddenly, six months later, council licensing inspectors swooped on the place, claiming the on-licence only pertained to 64sqm , and the whole twisted, contorted nightmare began.

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What prompted them to swoop?

Hospitality New Zealand's regional manager, Amy McLellan-Minty, tells me "a council employee who lives nearby" triggered the storm. She considers the council's treatment of the Vaughans as the worst she's seen.

Since the council's Kaizuka swoop last August, Hospitality New Zealand notes the district licensing committee pointedly requires licence applicants to produce a far more prescriptive floor plan, to avoid any confusion. So is this heavy-handed treatment of Kaizuka by the power-trippers primarily a butt-covering exercise?

Local councillor, Tim Scandrett, has previously failed to make any headway. Crs Phil Clearwater and Scandrett notified me they'd be meeting council staff, in a bid to resolve the fiasco.

Living in Huntsbury, I know how cherished this venue is. The social media response from the local residents' groups has been emphatically supportive of Kaizuka.

The ludicrous council dictum for 62 more car parks has been roundly pilloried, particularly given the overwhelming number of patrons walk or bike there for a meal or drink. The Vaughans have clearly had a gutsful trying to strike a pragmatic resolution.

With 18 jobs on the line, a Christmas miracle is needed.

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 - Stuff

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