Two men have been barred for life from operating a licensed NSW venue after running an illegal addition to a Kings Cross strip club, serving alcohol and drugs.
On 10 and 17 December last year, police detected that level 1 of the building at 77 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point was being used to conduct private strip shows and serve alcohol, and that staff of Dreamgirls, a business licensed to operate in the basement of that address, were supplying illicit drugs in the venue and in the unlicensed first level.
On 19 December police executed a search warrant, obtaining evidence of the illegal bar and possession or use of illicit drugs, and subsequently sought an Urgent Short Term Closure Order. This was granted by Local Court Registrar Jeffrey Reid, closing Dreamgirls from 2am Sunday, 20 December, for 72 hours.
On 22 December Liquor & Gaming NSW (L&GNSW – at the time OLGR) sought a Long Term Closure Order with the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA). This was granted on 31 January, 2016, closing the venue for six months “or until certain conditions were satisfied”.
Around 23 February, Michael Amante – sole director of the registered operator of the business, Royal Restaurant Pty Ltd – hand delivered to L&GNSW an application to surrender the licence for the business. The application was formally accepted by an ILGA delegate on 9 March, 2016.
On 23 March, ILGA received a disciplinary complaint from Anthony Keon, then Director of Compliance and Enforcement for L&GNSW as delegate of the Secretary of the Department of Justice. The complaint was based in the actions of the last licensee recorded for Dreamgirls, David Lakepa, and Amante, as director of Royal Restaurant P/L, and former licensee of Dreamgirls.
No submissions by either respondent were received by ILGA in response to the complaint, but it was nevertheless denied by ILGA.
In May in Downing Centre Local Court, Lakepa was convicted and Amante pleaded guilty to setting up the bar to boost business.
ILGA revisited the complaint and in late September made the determination to disqualify Lakepa and Amante for life from holding a licence, being manager of a licensed premise or being the close associate of a licensee.
In its ruling, ILGA referenced Lakepa’s admission of lying to licensing inspectors at the business last year.
ILGA interviewer: “So … you didn’t know if the liquor was being sold upstairs?”
Lakepa: “Oh, yeah. I – I did know there was liquor sold upstairs. Yeah.”
ILGA interviewer: “Okay. And is there any reason why you said that on the night?”
Lakepa: “Oh, did I say that I was shitting bricks?”
The Authority ordered Lakepa to pay within 28 days the Secretary’s costs in carrying out the investigation, amounting to $10,005.00.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice Troy Grant noted the appropriate application of power by the delegated authority in matters of licensed venues.
“Our independent umpire is ensuring bad seeds are weeded out of the industry in an efficient and fair manner, making nights out safer for the community.
“Most venue operators do the right thing and follow the rules, and for the few that don’t, there is a strong independent regulator waiting to throw the book at them.”