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Three-year Battle Over South Auckland Nightclub’s Liquor Licence

A group of Manukau business owners have been fighting for more than three years against a nightclub’s plans to renew its liquor license after a shooting and ongoing compaints about the behaviour of its patrons.

The Vava’u Lahi Night Club in Manukau’s Cavendish Drive originally sought to renew its licence in 2017, which was opposed by the police. It followed a shooting outside the club in May that year involving gang members.

In a statement to the Auckland Council’s District Licensing Committee (DLC) the Counties Manukau Police outlined its opposition to the application.

Police said there had been a number of incidents involving intoxicated patrons and disorderly behaviour over the previous 12 months. Police had visited the premises 27 times between May 2016 and November 2017 with 11 reported incidents, some of which were classified as serious offences.

The police called for a limited renewal period of 12 months for the liquor licence if it was renewed due to concerns about the club.

A number of local businesses, including Beaurepaires, Smith and Smith Auto Glass, Homebush Properties, Rent N Own Finance Ltd, Primal Piercing and Tattoo and Sound Solutions have joined forces to oppose the application.

Documents from the DLC show an ongoing litany of complaints, ranging from businesses finding human faeces, vomit, urine and broken bottles in the entrance ways to their premises and adjoining carpark, to fighting and violent behaviour.

A local business owner, who didn’t want to be named, said it’s been a nightmare after three years trying to fight the club’s plans to renew its licence. He said it’s not the right area for a night club.

“It was a restaurant originally and it’s just not designed for it. We’ve had multiple instances when we’ve come into work and there’s been vomit and urine in the doorway.”

And he said after the shooting in 2017 he lost a day’s business.

“We came into work on Sunday and the police had locked the car park off to carry out their investigation.”

He said he would be pleased when the whole thing is over.

The manager of another local business, who also wanted to remain anonymous, had similar concerns.

“They’ve got a liquor licence and they need to operate within the terms of that,” he said. “The issue is the patrons. When they leave they’ve got no control over them.”

The DLC rejected the Vava’u Lahi Night Club’s application to renew its licence in 2018. But the club appealed to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) and a hearing was held in October that year.

Lawyer John Young represented the club’s owners and said the DLC had falsely claimed the allegations about club patrons were uncontested. He said it had also failed to consider the financial implications for the appellant in refusing to grant the licence.

Young also said declining the renewal was excessive and oppressive based on the facts of the case.

In his decision District Court Judge Kevin Kelly said the DLC did not undertake a proper evaluation of the application and erred in requiring the Vava’u Lahi Night Club to prove its case. He said the DLC’s role was to assess the risks involved in granting a renewal and to evaluate the application.

The Vava’u Lahi Night Club won the appeal and Kelly called for the application to be reheard by the District Licensing Committee.

A rehearing was held by the DLC in February this year, which was adjourned. But delays due to the Covid-19 lockdown means the rehearing won’t resume until July 20.

Vava’u Lahi Night Club owner and licence holder Finau Tukuafu was unavailable for comment, while the company’s director, Seini Tonga, refused to comment.

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