Kapiti bar censured for liquor licence breaches

By David Haxton of the Kapiti News

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A Kapiti bar duty manager has been criticised by the Liquor Licensing Authority in its reserved decision not to renew the bar's on-licence.

And the authority wasn't complimentary of Mark Spiekerman, the director of MSP Trading Ltd, which is the bar's licensee holder.

Police, Kapiti Coast District Council and Regional Public Health opposed the license renewal application.

The authority said more than 30 intoxicated people were found on the Retro Bar premises over a 44-week period and, of those, 30 were on the premises in 2012.

It said the continued breaching of the Sale of Liquor Act during the past 10 or 11 months "reflects badly on the way in which the premises have been conducted".

Most of the incidents had occurred under the watch of Retro Bar duty manager David Aitken, the authority said.

A significant issue was Mr Aitken's interpretation of a chart, given to the bar by police, which was used to assess levels of intoxication.

"Mr Aitken's obsession with the characterisation of intoxicated patrons in terms of the chart seems to have detrimentally affected his judgement in determining whether a patron was intoxicated and required removal in terms of the Sale of Liquor Act."

It said Mr Aitken didn't obtain his general manager's certificate until February 8, 2011, and his experience in the hospitality industry dated only from 2009.

"The licensee has chosen to employ as its duty manager a man [Mr Aitken] who is plainly very immature and inexperienced. When one considers the nature of the premises, it was extraordinary that a man of such inexperience and immaturity should be appointed to be general manager.

"Nevertheless, and having heard all the evidence relating to Mr Aitken's failures, Mr Spiekerman (the alter-ego of the licensee) expressed his full confidence and trust in Mr Aitken as the general manager of the premises."

The authority said the licensee failed in its opportunity to prove its entitlement for an on-licence renewal.

"Indeed, all it has managed to do is satisfy the authority that if the on-licence is renewed then further liquor abuse issues become an inevitability."

The authority gave serious consideration to reducing the Retro Bar's closing hour from 3am to 1am but felt no conditions could be "imposed that will overcome the basic lack of judgement inherent in the licensee".

The authority also suspended Mr Aitken's general manager's certificate for six months. While it renewed Mr Spiekerman's general manager's certificates for 16 months, starting from July 30, 2012, it noted there were enough concerns relating to his overall conduct and understanding of the provisions of the Sale of Liquor Act to require that the renewal be for a truncated period; and also noted that not renewing the on-licence meant Mr Spiekerman might no longer be involved in the industry.

Sergeant Jacqui Muir of Kapiti police said the authority's decision was fair.

"Police hope this decision will contribute to a reduction in alcohol-related harm and police calls for service to the Kapiti Lights complex.

"This decision and the recent introduction of an alcohol-free zone between 9pm and 6am will go a long way towards reducing alcohol-fuelled disorder and offending in Kapiti."

Kapiti Mayor Jenny Rowan was relieved the authority had decided not to renew the on-licence.

"This bar has become associated with alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder that has had a huge impact on the wider community.

"Let's not forget two young men died violent deaths in the vicinity of this bar, which seemed to attract trouble-makers and has put Kapiti on the map for all the wrong reasons."

While she believed the decision to refuse the on-licence was the right one, she warned it wouldn't solve alcohol issues in the community.

"Council will continue working with police and community agencies to promote safe, responsible drinking.

"Alcohol abuse is a community problem and we are all part of the solution."

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