The owner of Dunedin's seminal music venue has admitted deliberately driving at a pedestrian, in an incident a witness described as "like something out of reality TV".

Jon Robert Leng, 59, denied an allegation of assault with a weapon, following an incident on November 25 by a bus stop near The Empire, the building he bought in 2015 and has since been restoring.

It is regarded as the birthplace of the Dunedin Sound where, during the 1980s, local bands were offered the chance to play live in its first-floor bar.

The venue has been closed since 2009 and Leng previously said he expected to spend $1 million on strengthening and restoration.


Yesterday, Judge Michael Crosbie at the Dunedin District Court heard the day-long trial, at the end of which police amended the charge to dangerous driving.

Leng pleaded guilty, was ordered to pay the victim $500 and was banned from driving for six months.

He was attempting to park his 1960 yellow Ford Zephyr ute in Princes St when Phyllis Ouyang, who was waiting for a bus, stepped into the road.

She told the court she was concerned the driver was going to block the bus stop.

So she stood her ground.

Ouyang banged the bonnet of the ute to "alert people" before Leng crossed the road to speak to the owner of a cafe.

Witness Jeff Herkt said he was walking down the road with his wife when he heard raised voices after Leng had returned to his vehicle.

Herkt said the defendant shrugged at the patrons and deliberately drove at Ouyang, who was still blocking his path.


"We stood and looked in amazement and astoundment ... She was bracing herself against the bonnet of the vehicle," he said.

"It was like something out of reality TV. It was mind-boggling to watch."

Ouyang said she thought Leng was going to knock her down as she retreated with her hands on the bonnet.

The vehicle was advancing too quickly for her to get out of the way, she told Judge Crosbie.

Herkt concurred.

"It was a deliberate movement forward. It wasn't a little warning," he said.

The witness' wife comforted Ouyang while Leng simply got on with his work.

"Without looking at the lady or asking if she was all right, he started unloading materials off the trailer," Herkt said.

When Leng saw the victim sitting on a seat outside his building he yelled: "Get off my *** bench".

Herkt said the defendant then approached him aggressively and stopped within centimetres of his face.

The man told Leng to remain at the scene until police arrived but he drove off, nearly colliding with a scooter as he pulled out, the court heard.

It was not the defendant's first brush with the law.

In July 2015, he claimed he was forcibly removed from the Dunedin Central Police Station by two constables while making a complaint, which left him with broken glasses and an abrasion on his head.

His interview with police following the November incident was played in court yesterday, during which he mentioned the scuffle and said he was not feeling "over comfortable" at the station.

Leng said he asked Ouyang to move several times.

When he drove on, he said he did so at a crawl and if the woman had wanted to step back on to the footpath she could have.

"I can understand, you drive over someone, you're going to get in deep *** ... I'm not completely stupid. Why would I go over there and deliberately try and run someone down?" Leng said.

The defendant was quizzed by Constable Rhys Davidson about his demeanour after the incident during which he reportedly told the Chinese complainant: "go back to your own country".

"Charge me for that, too," Leng said.

"We're looking at that," Const Davidson replied.

Counsel Joe O'Neill said his client was remorseful and had not been before the court since he was 19 years old.

He said Leng had transformed the top two floors of The Empire into apartments, while the ground floor would become a commercial premises.