An MP received a suspended sentence following a fight with a gang member who attacked him after being refused entry to a bar.

First-term NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell, 43, has reluctantly spoken about the incident, which occurred 18 years ago.

"The reality is, everyone has a past and I have got one, too. I have been involved in hospitality for 25 years and so, because you run bars and you stand on the front door, you do have, and I certainly have had, over the years, a lot of situations where you get put into very perilous situations."

Mr Mitchell, who was a Tauranga City councillor before entering Parliament after the last election, was in charge of the city's Straight Shooters Bar in 1997, when a gang member with facial tattoos was refused entry.

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"It turned into a confrontation, a physical one, he was a lot bigger than me, he was a very intimidating individual. I got a black eye and swollen face out of it.

"He picked me up above his head and tried to throw me across the front entranceway, but I held on to his belt and got myself to the ground."

Mr Mitchell, who went on to get a black-belt in judo and has taught boxing and women's self-defence classes, said the man then told him he was going to get a gun and would return to finish him off. He now realises he crossed a line in following the gang member, he said, but at the time was in fear for his life.

A few years before the fight a close family friend working at an Auckland bar had his face blasted with a shotgun after refusing gang members entry, Mitchell said.

"I followed him. I told the staff that were there to call the police, which they did, the police arrived, and by the time they had arrived I'd run up and gave him a beating, basically, gave him a bit of a boxing lesson.

"Had I just repelled him at the front door and left it, then he would have been arrested and there would be no charges against me."

Mr Mitchell went on to own several bars in the area, including the Mount Mellick and Bahama Hut.

At one point his business partner was Brad Shipton, who had been a police officer in Tauranga and later a city councillor. Shipton would later come to national prominence in the Louise Nicholas trial and, in another case, be jailed for rape.

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Mr Mitchell said that business relationship ended well before any allegations against Shipton were known.

"Nobody knew. I mean Brad was in the police, he got into council. Nobody knew this history, and it was a shock to everybody."