Mary and Ron Beehre from Ambrosia Restaurant have to stick with selling coffees, juice and fizzy drinks after an administration mistake meant they lost their liquor licence. Photo / Andrew Warner
A bar has lost up to $100,000 after it was forced to stop serving alcohol for more than four weeks because of an admin mistake.
Rotorua’s Ambrosia Bar and Restaurant on Eat Streat has also
had to cut its workforce from 23 to 18 and reduce staff hours after its licence expired on July 14.
Owner Ron Beehre said they thought the licence was due in September but got an email from the Rotorua Lakes Council advising it had already expired.
“That was a bit of a shock-horror moment,” Beehre told the Rotorua Daily Post.
He said the error occurred when the business renewed its licence in 2020 and the date of the document was September 3, 2020.
“We misread it because somewhere else in the document it says the licence actually expires on 14th July… But yes, it was an admin fault by us.”
It is a costly mistake because licence renewals need to be done 20 days before they expire. . If the licence expires without being renewed, a new application for a liquor licence needs to be lodged.
The business was still operating as a restaurant and was selling non-alcoholic drinks. It has had to reduce its staffing by five and Beehre said it was “hemorrhaging” losses of between $20,000 to $25,000 a week.
Beehre said they were usually on top of their administration duties and already had their paperwork sorted for what they thought was their September renewal.
Beehre – who owns the bar with wife Mary and with help from their son Kris, who runs the kitchen side of the business – said they had owned the bar for 12 years and had never made such an error.
He said he and his wife were personally propping up some of their key staff members during this time because they were working reduced hours.
Beehre said they had the greatest respect for their management staff and wanted to ensure they didn’t lose them during this time because they were earning less.
The Beehres were able to quickly do another application and it was lodged with the Rotorua Lakes Council on July 28.
Council community wellbeing deputy chief executive officer Anaru Pewhairangi said in response to Rotorua Daily Post questions that under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (Section 124), an expired licence cannot be renewed.
Pewhairangi said further to that, Section 127 stated a renewal application must be made no later than 20 working days before the expiry of the licence or by such later date (not being later than the date of expiry of the licence) that the licensing committee might allow.
“We would like to remind all licensees of the importance of ensuring that they are familiar with the expiry date on their licences to prevent any unnecessary delays in processing renewal applications,” Pewhairangi said.
When asked how long the new application would take, Pewhairangi said Ambrosia’s new application was at the public notification period, which ended at the close of business today.
“Given this and its place in the process, an estimated timeframe or confirmation of the outcome cannot be provided. As per any application, in the event that opposition or objection is received, a hearing would be arranged to determine the outcome through the District Licensing Committee.”
Beehre said they were using the restricted alcohol-selling period to fast-track some improvements at the premises, including installing a new bar, updating signage, and painting and upgrading the toilets.
He said the restaurant had still been busy and he was grateful for regular customers who had tried their best to support them by coming for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Beehre hoped, all going well, the bar could re-open serving alcohol in the coming days.
“It’s been pretty tough. Our restaurant has been going okay. We’ve had some quiet nights and some busy nights… We’ve still got our overheads like lease and power and we’re getting a bit of income still from the food.”
Beehre said selling alcohol provided the cashflow for the business to survive.
“Just think if you go out for dinner and get a steak, it might cost you $30, but then you might have a couple of glasses of wine as well and that’s about $12 a glass, so straight away it’s nearly double what you pay.”
He said their locals were checking in regularly and they hoped for a good result to allow them to get back in full business.
Robbie Knowles was one of those locals who would go to Ambrosia every Thursday night and some Sunday afternoons if there was live music.
“Thursdays was the focal point of our week and everyone catches up there. Most of the guys would be gone by 6.30pm or 7.”
Since Ambrosia wasn’t able to sell alcohol, their friend group had been a bit scattered. He said some had been going to Good Eastern Taphouse at Lynmore but others, like him, didn’t live on that side of the city. He said they looked forward to getting back to Ambrosia.
“But with the weather being so cold lately, it’s actually been a bit easier to just light the fire on a Thursday instead of going out.”
Kelly Makiha is a senior journalist who has reported for the Rotorua Daily Post for more than 25 years, covering mainly police, court, human interest and social issues.