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Mad Hatters censured for skirting liquor law

Flouting rules: Mad Hatters moved tables to Mariners Club (File photograph)

A scheme to get around the expiry of a restaurant’s liquor licence by use of a private members’ club next door was slammed by the Liquor Licensing Authority yesterday.

Juan Wolffe, chairman of the LLA, said Mad Hatters restaurant in Hamilton had served food with alcohol available at the neighbouring Mariners Club after the restaurant’s licence expired last Friday.

Mr Wolffe said: “You knew you weren’t supposed to serve alcohol from June 1 to now, but it seems you have some sort of arrangement with Mariners Club where you would move all your tables into their premises and your customers would be given two different bills — one from your establishment and one from Mariners Club.”

Mr Wolffe warned: “We are going to be calling on the Mariners Club because being a members’ club does not cover that.

“It may be that Mariners Club loses their licence if they are found in breach.

“I don’t know what kind of arrangement you have, or if you are trying to be clever, but that attempt to be clever might result in you both not getting your licences.”

Mark Turner, for Mad Hatters, admitted that the restaurant had moved tables into the club and served food there while Mariners Club served the customers drinks.

He said Tempest in St George, which also lost its licence, was empty on Friday night, which hurt the business and staff.

Mr Turner added: “We were trying to keep everybody happy and succeeded in upsetting somebody.

“We did try to stay on the right side of the law. I wasn’t aware we overstepped.”

Mr Wolffe said he was concerned that if the authority were to give Mad Hatters a new licence, it would encourage their conduct.

The chairman added that Mad Hatters had not collected their 2016 licence, which meant the restaurant could not have displayed the licence as required by law. He also said the restaurant had applied late for their licence several times in recent years.

Mr Wolffe told Mr Turner they would be contacted when the authority had made its decision.

The Happy Valley and Vesey Street branches of Belvin’s Variety also came under fire for a series of late submissions.

Mr Wolffe said: “You have two establishments and almost every year for the last five years, you have filed late applications.

“The LLA still went ahead and gave you a break and still every year it seems you are late.”

Mr Wolffe said the applicants would have to return to the courts on June 28, with the stores unable to sell alcohol until then.

Yellowtail Ltd, represented by lawyer Richard Horseman, apologised for late applications for three Hamilton restaurants — Astwood Arms, Ruby Murry’s and Cafe Ten.

Mr Horseman said the mistake had been his in all three cases.

Mr Wolffe said Astwood Arms had only recently opened, but Cafe Ten had been late with previous applications.

He said: “On all these other occasions, the LLA stretched itself to hear the applications. It seems as though your client still was in non-compliance.

“The LLA was not unreasonable in any sense of the word.”

Mr Wolffe said the LLA would need to consider the applications, but said the Supreme Court had given the restaurants the ability to sell alcohol until the authority makes its decision.

Esso City Tiger Mart and Esso Collectors Hill also came under fire for late applications.

Representatives from both stations apologised and told the authority the inability to sell alcohol had affected their incomes.

Mr Wolffe said he did not support the sale of alcohol in gas stations so the businesses had to be careful to stay in line.

He added: “I don’t want to find a reason to say you are not getting your licence.”

Further hearings will be held today.