Chow brothers made to wait on liquor licence

By Brendan Manning

Strip club owners Michael Chow (left) and John Chow. Photo / Michael Craig
Strip club owners Michael Chow (left) and John Chow. Photo / Michael Craig

The Chow brothers will have to wait to see if they have been granted liquor licences for the Auckland arm of their adult entertainment empire.

Auckland's Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority has reserved its decision whether to grant two licences - one new, the other a renewal - after a two-day hearing at a tribunal room in the city's district court.

The applications were opposed by business rival Jacqui Le Prou, who runs the Calendar Girls clubs.

Ms Le Prou's business was the sole objector to the Chows' applications for a new on-licence for Mermaid Bar and The Splash Club on Karangahape Rd and another for the renewal of an on-licence for the Penthouse Club and Galaxy Club on Gore St.

Neither the police or Auckland's medical officer of health opposed the applications.

In his opening address, Ms Le Prou's lawyer Stephen Rollo alleged the skill, care, and attention shown by the Chow brothers in the operation of their current businesses was well below what the authority should expect of a licensed premises.

However, the Chows' lawyer Alastair Sherriff said that in 12 years of business no criminal or licensing complaints against the Chow brothers or their businesses had been upheld.

The brothers also own Mermaids, The Splash Club and Il Bordello in Wellington.

They also have resource consent for a 15-storey brothel on the corner of Victoria St and Federal St opposite the Sky Tower in central Auckland.

Mr Rollo told the hearing, chaired by Judge John Hole, the brothers were either complicit in or naive to liquor licence breaches at their businesses.

The brothers would become intoxicated at their premises, and encouraged the excessive intoxication of patrons, he said.

Former employees called as witnesses by Mr Rollo said sexual assaults against staff went unreported, clients were intentionally overcharged and staff drank to excess so they could tolerate patrons and get through their shifts.

During cross-examination John Chow said he had slept with staff. Witnesses said the brothers ordered lap dances.

A former waitress and dancer from Mermaids in Wellington, said the strip bar was an uncomfortable environment to work in, with a culture of heavy drinking.

"When John and Michael came into the premises they were very sleazy and would often be intoxicated and that was the tone of the entire place."

"As waitresses, we were pressured to sell shots every night or we would be warned that we would be getting less shifts," she said.

"I can recall being told at a staff meeting that basically unless the person was falling off the chair we were to try and sell them shots."

However, the Chow brothers' lawyer Alastair Sherriff said the hearing had heard a mixture of "fact and fiction".

"You must carefully weigh that factual material and the clarity with which they gave it to you," he told the authority.

The businesses applying for licences were already trading and had being doing so without incident, he said.

Of more than 1000 employees past and present only six former staff had given evidence, he said. They were linked to Ms Le Prou and she had paid for them to come to the hearing, he said.

"No one is challenging that she is funding this opposition."

- APNZ

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