Waiheke neighbours allege ‘litany’ of failing at Cable Bay Vineyards

The owner of a top Waiheke Island vineyard allegedly showed contempt for his legal obligations and can’t be relied upon to uphold his responsibilities, a liquor licensing hearing has heard.

But Cable Bay Vineyards’ owner Loukas Petrou says he has worked hard to create an exclusive wine and food destination and strongly rejects allegations he is not fit to hold alicence.

It comes as newly released video shows a man urinating on the picturesque island’s roadside shortly after leaving the vineyard’s restaurant, sparking a complaint to Auckland Council.

A band of neighbours are at war with Petrou and his companies following a protracted legal dispute over the vineyard’s operations and at least 75 noise complaints.

Petrou appeared before the Auckland District Licensing Committee yesterday in a bid to renew the vineyard’s liquor licence.

The neighbours – who have spent about $1 million fighting the operation through the courts – originally opposed Petrou’s licence application. But they now want the committee to impose strict conditions to prevent drunkenness and “nuisance” behaviour.

The committee was provided a video filmed by neighbour Michael Poland in August last year showing a male patron urinating on the roadside shortly after leaving the vineyard.

Auckland Council alcohol licensing inspector Nathan Tanevesi investigated a complaint about the incident and travelled to Cable Bay to view CCTV footage of the group.

He found the patrons were not intoxicated and footage showing a woman stumbling was more likely due to her walking in high heels on the grass verge.

Asked about the man urinating, Tanevesi said: “In my view there was no intoxication.

“He should have gone to the toilet before leaving but it is a long walk to the ferry terminal.”

A lawyer representing the objectors, Andrew Braggins, told the hearing Petrou and his applicant company Cable Bay Wine Ltd had a lengthy record of non-compliance.

“The litany of abatement notices, prosecutions, notices to fix and excessive noise directions reflect poorly on the character of the applicant – and its alter ego Mr Petrou – and demonstrates that the applicant struggles to operate effective systems, people or training which would allow it to comply with the law.

“The licensing system requires licence holders to be reliable and trustworthy so that the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol is undertaken responsibly.

“However, the applicant has demonstrated a pattern of disregard for its legal obligations and that it cannot be relied on to uphold the responsibilities necessary for holding a licence.”

Braggins also highlighted comments at a committee hearing in June by chairwoman Katia Fraser, warning Petrou he was “very close to that line”.

“We are definitely concerned that you may not be a suitable licensee. There’s multiple breaches of various acts, there’s what appears to be disregard for council regulations,” she had said.

Braggins called for the vineyard to be saddled with additional conditions, including drafting a security plan, making CCTV footage available to inspectors and being granted an 18-month licence instead of the normal three years.

But Petrou said the vineyard aimed to sell alcohol safely and responsibly and did “all we can to operate in compliance with the law”.

He had operated the vineyard for 10 years without any liquor licence breaches and said there had been a “concerted effort” to ensure staff understood their legal responsibilities.

Petrou’s submission said he had no criminal convictions and considered himself a suitable person to hold a liquor licence.

Convictions handed down to one of his companies for excessive helicopter flights to and from the island did not relate to “fraud, dishonesty, violence or drug or alcohol-related offending”.

They should have no bearing on the liquor licence application, Petrou said.

“I take my compliance obligations very seriously.”

He believed some complaints made against Cable Bay were vexatious and without foundation.

The vineyard was “probably the most closely monitored and inspected restaurant in New Zealand … probably in Australasia”.

Fraser adjourned the hearing while awaiting further information, indicating the licence application would be granted subject to conditions.

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