Canterbury bar The Platform has liquor licence suspended after drunk driver dies in crash

The Platform Bar and Restuarant has had its liquor licence suspended.
The Platform Bar and Restuarant has had its liquor licence suspended. Photo credit: Getty Images

Story by Niva Chittock of RNZ

A North Canterbury bar and restaurant has had its liquor licence suspended after a man drinking there died in a car crash later that night.

The man, whose name has been suppressed, had been drinking at The Platform Bar, Restaurant and Cafe in Mandeville, just north of Christchurch, prior to the single-vehicle crash in August 2022.

Police evidence said the man drank three pints of beer, two 60 millilitre shots of rum and coke and three 30ml shots of Midori and Baileys liquor.

He was believed to have had the drinks in less than two hours.

The Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority found the business breached the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act when it continued to serve the man while he was drunk and has handed down suspensions.

The Platform acknowledged it had been suspended from trading for this week and its owners and bar manager have also temporarily lost their duty manager's certificates.

A complaint was lodged with the authority by senior constable Genevieve Craddock when another patron at the bar that night came forward and said the man had continued to be served even when he showed clear signs of intoxication.

In her evidence, Craddock said she initially began investigating the fatal crash and requested CCTV footage from The Platform after learning the man had been drinking there prior to the accident.

Initially, Craddock said she "skimmed" the two hours of footage, and met with the bar's owners, Garreth and Lynette Mackenzie, and duty manager that night, Hamish Jones.

But the authority's findings said no actions were taken or considered against the Mackenzies and Jones until four months later, when another patron, Kelly Cross, approached police.

Cross said the man had joined the group she was drinking with the night of the crash.

From the moment he joined them, she said he showed signs of intoxication and should not have been served alcohol.

This included him being unsteady on his feet, slurring his speech and being amorously preoccupied with another patron.

She said she took up her concerns with staff to no avail.

Police went back and reviewed the CCTV footage in full and found "there were concerns about the conduct" of The Platform's staff.

Police evidence stated the man had a blood alcohol level of 158 milligrams per 100ml of blood.

The legal limit to drive is less than a third of that, at 50mg.

The Mackenzies and Jones denied the allegations.

In his evidence, Jones said he knew the man, saw him arrive and had "no concerns" about his sobriety "until the very latter stages of his time in the bar".

It was only then Jones said he noticed the man slurring his words and indicated that the drinks he had requested would be his last.

Jones then served the man single shots instead of doubles in that final round.

He maintained no complaints of his drunkenness had been raised with him by Cross.

The Mackenzies had been called back to the bar that night to deal with an unrelated altercation with other patrons.

They said, from their "limited observations", there was nothing untoward about the man's behaviour and said he was not intoxicated.

The Platform had food and water available, the Mackenzies confirmed.

Their restaurant manager also gave evidence and said she had handed a food menu to the man and the others he was drinking with.

She also noted he did not appear to be intoxicated.

Another interaction was detailed by the restaurant manager in September 2022, when Cross and her partner were trying to purchase a bottle of wine.

The manager said she was intoxicated and behaved in an aggressive manner.

The Mackenzies and Jones argued Cross' evidence was neither reliable nor credible for a number of reasons, including because of this exchange, which they said was a grievance against them.

Following a two-day hearing in Christchurch in November, District Court Judge Simon Menzies found The Platform had breached the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act when it allowed the man to become intoxicated and stay on site, and continued to allow him to purchase and be served alcohol while drunk.

The Platform had been suspended from trading for a week, from 1 to 7 March 2024.

The Mackenzies have each had their duty managers' certificates suspended for two weeks this month, while Jones' had been suspended for a month, from 1 to 28 March.

In a statement, the Mackenzies said: "We acknowledge there was an incident in 2022 that involved our bar. We also acknowledge that we have had our licence suspended for a short time due to this incident.

"This situation was a very complex one, and we ask that people don't jump to conclusions.

"We decided that we were going to use this closure to undertake some renovations in our conservatory and kitchen areas. We run our business with the upmost [sic] professionalism and experience, and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our community and we look forward to welcoming you all again from the 8th of March," their joint statement said.

"Thank you for those who have shown their support."

Police said their investigation into the crash had finished and it had been referred to the Coroner.

"The suspensions are significant penalties of themselves - and send a clear signal to licensees and managers of the consequences of failing to meet their obligations, in relation to the operation of their premises," said Inspector Peter Cooper, Canterbury rural area commander.

"Police are satisfied with the penalties imposed in this instance and have not sought to appeal the authority decision."