Bar owner ‘behaved badly’


Surreal owner Mel Stadler says she’s embarrassed about having her manager’s certificate suspended.

The Queenstown bar was forced to shut for five days last week for breaches of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act on three separate days last year.

The national licensing authority, ARLA, also suspended Stadler’s certificate for 28 days from March 29.

The bar, which opened again last Sunday, also copped a “negative holding” after she and husband Eric were found to be drunk there on August 30.

Under the act, if Surreal gets three negative holdings in three years the authority can cancel its licence.

Stadler, who wasn’t working at the time of the incident, told Mountain Scene the penalties were expected.

“We were hoping for four days [forced closure].

“It was disappointing, but no surprises.”

The decision says Surreal breached the act on August 30 by allowing “disorderly conduct” and intoxication on site and non-compliance with food availability rules.

The latter breach - in which only dumplings were available to eat - also occurred on August 1 and September 13.

“The authority accepts that the licensee was endeavouring to be innovative in the sort of food supplied,” the decision says.

“However, merely to supply dumplings (and nothing else) was in breach.”

Judge John Hole says Stadler and her husband were assessed as drunk when police carried out a routine compliance check at the bar.

“In addition the manager was belligerent whilst trying to photograph the police activity.

“The manager was not the duty manager, but she is a director of the licensee.”

Stadler - who’s held a manager’s certificate for 21 years and operated Surreal for more than 18 - is “very remorseful”, Hole says.

She was frustrated by the attitude of the police and inspector because of their attitude to the food.

“She had thought she was being innovative and complying with the terms of her licence. She was not -behaved badly.”

Stadler agrees she was unprofessional.

“I’d been out, I wasn’t working,” she says.

“It was just a recipe for disaster which I am, to this day, still very embarrassed about.”

The authority also found Surreal breached the Act by allowing people to remain in the bar outside its licensed hours on August 1 and September 13.

Hole says it’s “disappointing” Surreal - which has a “long history of exemplary conduct” - has now “transgressed” twice within a relatively short space of time.

It faced almost identical allegations in September 2014 and was forced to shut down for 48 hours.

“Possibly this is a case where licensee fatigue is occurring,” Hole says.

In the 2014 decision, the authority suggested the bar had inadvertently dropped its standards.

Hole says this time: “That comment is reiterated and reinforced in this decision.”