Erina’s Sunken Monkey is sunk no more, climbing from the depths of the violent venues list like a rat up a drainpipe.
NSW Liquor & Gaming releases its controversial Violent Venues list every half-year, citing any hotel in the state that has recorded 12 or more incidents in the previous 12 months.
Big Erina pub the Sunken Monkey found its way into Level 2 of the list several years ago, struggling to reduce incidents and skirting an upgrade to Level 1 status, which would bring another raft of restrictions and requirements.
Seeking a new licensee, Sean Wagstaff stepped up to the challenge of the troubled operation. A 20-year veteran, Wagstaff brought with him experience in the heady days of Kings Cross (a long time before the lockouts), time at Byron’s tourist mecca the Beach Hotel, and tenure under Gallagher and Short pubs.
“I wanted to use my skills acquired over the past decade to see what a high-risk venue was like, and what I could do, so I took the licence here last April,” explains Wagstaff.
Working with security company SSI and digital incident register provider AusComply, they upgraded the pub to best-practise methodology, including ditching the paper-based register and creating a framework for staff and management.
Wagstaff says Darren Cartwright of SSI Security is a high-risk specialist, with well-trained guards that bring a big presence, while strictly ‘hands-off’.
There has also been collaboration with local authorities and licensing, including proactive communication, even when nothing to report.
Now, L&G’s round 21 of the Venues will report the Sunken Monkey off the list, falling below the threshold for Level 2.
“I was told it would take two years to get us off Level 2, however, with a lot of late nights training my team, and the best security company in the game, we achieved this in just under one year – from 17 listed assaults down to just eight.”
The pub is still a thriving operation, with 1500 patrons typically attending nightclub events, making the exercise almost the operational equivalent of holding back the tide with a broom. The Violent Venues scheme is oft criticised for not taking patron numbers into account.
“The major change was being present and leading the team in all altercations, or removals and refusals, and educating patrons as they leave the venue as to why – especially the younger patrons.
“Staff and security briefings before each event or nightclub night is paramount.
“’Ban from one ban from all’ and ID scanners adopted on the central coast have had a huge impact, but all these tools are only as good as the operator you have to be hands-on.”