Attacked bar owner’s plea to help ‘psycho’ chef

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A Queenstown bar owner attacked by his “psycho” drunk chef at work says he hopes his ex-employee gets proper help. 

Craig and Michelle Eccles, owners of 1876 Bar and Restaurant, say they’re pleased with a four-month home detention sentence dished out this week to their ex-chef Simon James Pankhurst. 

Pankhurst, 29, was sentenced in Queenstown District Court on Monday after earlier pleading guilty to assaulting Craig with intent to injure during a split-shift at 1876 – formerly Guilty bar – on January 11. 

Pankhurst threatened Eccles, punched and head-butted him, spat in his face, slandered the venue in front of patrons and exposed his private parts. Pankhurst also threatened to urinate in the bar after being fired on the spot for turning up to work drunk three times that day. 

Craig and Michelle say there were several occasions when they’d had to refuse serving Pankhurst alcohol when he was in the bar socially. 

“There were a few times when we saw another side to him,” Craig says. 

“You could see that he changed when he drank. He was just a bit psycho. 

“We knew he had a drinking problem but we didn’t realise how bad it actually was.” 

Since September last year, the couple had issued Pankhurst with two prior warnings for turning up to work hungover and for having a verbal altercation with a duty manager. He was on his final warning when he went on his drunken rampage in January. 

The court heard that Pankhurst had arrived at 1876 drunk and a head chef told him to go home and come back later but instead he went to Brazz bar across the road. Pankhurst then returned to 1876 but was sent away again by a duty manager – he continued to drink in a nearby bar. 

1876 staff informed Craig who went to Brazz and asked Pankhurst to come back to the bar to discuss conduct. At 1876, Craig dismissed him. 

Pankhurst demanded wages and holiday pay then threatened Craig, saying he knew people around Queenstown who would “wreck the place.” 

Craig tells Mountain Scene: “We gave him a couple of chances but the way he exploded that day was the final straw.” 

The couple believe sending Pankhurst to jail probably wouldn’t have helped him and they hope he’ll get the support he needs while on home detention in Christchurch. 

“Queenstown’s not the place to be if you’ve got an alcohol problem.” 

Judge Kevin Phillips added special conditions to Pankhurst’s home detention sentence including judicial monitoring, to undertake any programmes as directed by the Probation Service, six-months’ post-detention conditions and not to consume alcohol or drugs. 

Addressing Pankhurst in court, Phillips told him his behaviour was disgusting. 

“You are 29. You’re at the cross-roads of your life,” Phillips told him. 

“If you continue to drink you can go to prison for longer and longer periods of time or you can stop drinking altogether and make the most of your talents.”