Liquor li­cence rul­ing brings dis­may

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

There were shakes of the head and mut­ter­ings of ‘‘we feel cheated’’ as pro­test­ers filed out of a Liquor Li­cens­ing Au­thor­ity hear­ing last week, as the bot­tle store op­po­site Rus­sell School was given a dra­matic re­prieve.

The con­cerns of res­i­dents and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions were left un­heard in­side Porirua District Court last Wed­nes­day, the case ad­journed so Chi­man Pa­tel could ad­dress dis­crep­an­cies in the busi­ness struc­ture of his Thirsty Liquor bot­tle shop and ad­join­ing gro­cery store.

Ear­lier in the day, more than 100 peo­ple made the short walk from the canopies to the Porirua District Court, mak­ing their feel­ings known that the bot­tle shop was not wel­come in their neigh­bour­hood.

Res­i­dents and mem­bers of the Rus­sell School com­mu­nity com­plain of over-the-top ad­ver­tis­ing, bro­ken glass and graf­fiti due to the store’s pres­ence. The hear­ing be­gan with Se­nior Sergeant Steve Sar­gent tell- ing the court there had been two failed con­trolled pur­chase op­er­a­tions (CPO) at Thirsty Liquor since 2005, where mi­nors were able to buy al­co­hol at the store. He said it was in the po­lice’s in­ter­ests for Mr Pa­tel to not have his off-li­cence cer­tifi­cate re­newed.

In giv­ing ev­i­dence, Mr Pa­tel said his son, who was on the counter dur­ing the failed CPO in June, was tak­ing hos­pi­tal­ity man­age­ment classes in Jan­uary.

He in­sisted it was peo­ple’s ‘‘ re­spon­si­bil­ity to them­selves’’ whether they bought al­co­hol at his store or not.

Mr Pa­tel said more than half of his al­co­hol sales oc­cur af­ter 10pm on Fri­day and the week­end.

Thirsty Liquor is the only bot­tle shop open un­til mid­night in Porirua City.

His lawyer Jonathan Scragg said since the first failed CPO in 2005, there had been one breach in six years, with five CPOS passed in 2011 alone.

In the af­ter­noon the hear­ing took a turn that left a num­ber in at­tend- ance un­sat­is­fied. Un­der ques­tion­ing from one of the two au­thor­ity judges, John Hole, Mr Pa­tel could not sat­is­fac­to­rily an­swer ques­tions on the sep­a­ra­tion of his gro­cery and bot­tle store busi­nesses.

‘‘ You are giv­ing me dif­fer­ent an­swers . . . I put it to you that you are run­ning the food­mar­ket and the bot­tle store as one busi­ness and if that is the case you should not have a li­cence to sell liquor,’’ said Judge Hole. ‘‘ We can­not grant you an ap­pli­ca­tion, so we can’t go fur­ther here.’’

Un­der the Sale of Liquor Act it is il­le­gal for a gro­cery store to sell spir­its and ready-to-drink al­co­holic mixes.

Judge Hole was sym­pa­thetic to the num­ber of ob­jec­tors who had waited pa­tiently in the pub­lic gallery, and he paid trib­ute to their ‘‘ re­spect­ful’’ de­meanour in the court­room.

Many ob­jec­tors had taken time off work to ap­pear and ad­dress the court – Porirua Col­lege, the Sal­va­tion Army, Rus­sell School prin­ci­pal Sose An­nan­dale and a num­ber of res­i­dents will now not be heard due to an ad­journ­ment so Mr Pa­tel ‘‘could get his house in or­der’’.

The judge said this was the fairest out­come, rather than re­fus­ing the ob­jec­tion out­right, and the pub­lic’s con­cerns would re­main valid.

‘‘It is not what you wanted. I know you wanted the mat­ter dis­posed of to­day. But the is­sues of the struc­ture of the busi­ness [must be re­solved].

‘‘I can imag­ine Mr Scragg will be ad­vis­ing his client on this in strong terms.’’

Mr Sar­gent told the hear­ing ‘‘ob­jec­tors feel cheated’’ and one of these, Wes­ley Com­mu­nity Ac­tion’s Matt Craw­shaw, said he was ‘‘ gut­ted’’ they would have to come back, likely in the new year, to do it all again.

‘‘There’s been so much time and ef­fort gone in, this is a real an­ti­cli­max. Many peo­ple won’t be able to do this again, take time off work and spend a whole day down here.’’

Due to the failed CPO, po­lice ap­plied for a sus­pen­sion of Thirsty Liquor’s off-li­cence.

The au­thor­ity will likely rule on this be­fore Christ­mas and it could mean the shop is shut for 48 hours.

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