A Wellington man drowned when he fell head-first into a water-filled drain after a night of drinking at central city bars and clubs, an inquest into his death has found.

Peter Black visited some bars, including the Mermaid Bar and Splash Club late on January 13, 2012, Wellington Coroner Garry Evans said.

He spent up to six hours at the club, including four hours with one employee before spending time with another in a spa pool.

"During this time he continued to drink,'' Coroner Evans said.


"During the evening he fell out of the spa and struck his head on the stairs. He cut his lip and the top of his nose.''

He left the club sometime between 5am and 6am the next day, with closed circuit television footage showing Mr Black approaching his van parked in Barnett Street just before 6am.

Mr Black had to unlock the van on the passenger side because the driver's door's lock was faulty.

Police told the inquest it appeared Mr Black accidentally dropped his keyring, which held his house, car and work keys, into a drain under the passenger door.

At the time the drain was two-thirds filled with storm water.

Mr Black lifted the cover to retrieve the keys and "unfortunately, he then lost his balance and fell head-first into the culvert'', Coroner Evans said.

He then became trapped and unable to free himself.

"After Mr Black fell into the culvert, the water therein rose and covered his body and feet, with only the soles of his shoes visible above the water.''

Later that morning a parking warden issued a parking ticket to the van, and on seeing the open drain, he closed the lid to stop anyone from falling inside, Coroner Evans said.

He saw the boots, but did not inspect them closely.

Mr Black's body was not discovered until about 12.45pm the following day by a member of the public.

A report from regional pathologist Marissa Feeney found Mr Black showed evidence of "acute alcohol intoxication'' and had a blood-alcohol level of 272mg per 100ml.

The Mermaid Bar, and adjoining brothel Splash Club are owned by sex entrepreneur brothers Michael and John Chow.

After the incident, they were ordered to close their doors for two nights for serving an intoxicated person alcohol.

The Mermaid Bar supplied alcohol to Mr Black, who then drank it off the premise. The Splash Club supplied liquor to Mr Black despite him being intoxicated.

Steps had since been taken to avoid drunk patrons being admitted to the premises or being served more alcohol.

Coroner Evans said if Mr Black had been sober, he possibly would have waited for help to retrieve the keys from council staff. His loss of balance and fall into the drain was "undoubtedly related to the alcohol he had consumed and, probably, his tiredness'', Coroner Evans said.

He made no recommendations in his report.