Blacknose Bar dispute before Supreme Court

By Deidre Fanene ,

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BATTLING IN COURT: Olo Fiti Vaai and Tialavea Tionisio Hunt.

BATTLING IN COURT: Olo Fiti Vaai and Tialavea Tionisio Hunt. (Photo: Samoa Observer / File)

The legal dispute between Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, and the Government’s Liquor Board, has been adjourned for two weeks.

The decision was made when the matter was mentioned before the Supreme Court last week.

Olo is suing the Liqour Board over their decision to shut his business, Blacknose Bar, in August last year.  

Tafailagi Peniamina, is representing the Government while Leiataualesa Komisi Koria is representing Olo Fiti.

The Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu presided. 

During the proceedings, Ms. Peniamina made an application for the matter to be adjourned so that they can obtain instructions from the defendant. 

“Your Honour, I act for the defendant in this matter and it’s a matter for first mention,” she told the Court.  

“Therefore, we are respectfully seeking a two week adjournment for us to confirm instructions before our response.” 

Chief Justice Patu granted the application. 

“This matter is adjourned to 9 April for the respondent to file and serve a response,” he said. 

On August last year, the Secretary of the Liquor Board, Epi Leo Tuimauga, wrote to Olo and ordered his bar to be closed.

“The conclusion follows a written report from the Ministry of Police in relation to an incident involving a security of Blacknose Bar who assaulted a customer,” the letter reads. 

“The incident occurred on June 23, 2017. This is not the first time that such an incident has occurred at the Blacknose Bar.

“It’s evident that you (Olo) do not adhere to the laws governing alcohol. The issues have been addressed to you directly with the Board.

“For these reasons, you are asked to close down your Blacknose Bar.” 

At the time when Olo was asked for a comment, he claimed the decision was unfounded. 

“There are fights in all of the bars in our country. Why haven't those clubs been ordered to close down? 

“I don’t get why I have been asked to close down my bar over the actions of an employee. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Olo said his bar always complied with requirements from the Liqour Board. The incident with the security officer was an internal matter, he added.

“This is an internal matter and my Blacknose Bar should not be affected over the actions of an employee, namely a security who they claimed assaulted a customer. 

“This matter is pending in Court and yet they have made their decision based on the report of the Police.

“My club is being closed due to the actions of an employee, whom in reality I cannot control. 

“I am not saying my security officer is guilty, nor do I allow this type of behaviour. 

“But my point is if they are closing down my club due to a fight, then they should do the same to the other clubs where there are always fights.”

Olo said he would fight this case all the way.

Chairman of the Liquor Board and the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, in September last year, defended their decision. 

Tialavea explained this was not the first time the Liquor Control Board had closed the bar in question. 

“We closed it down during the holidays and the decision came after numerous complaints and numerous warnings given to the bar owner about the loud noise. 

“The place is so exposed and therefore the sound system is not contained. 

“And families in the area have complained about the noise numerous times.”

The Chairman made it clear that the fights were not the main reasons why the Liquor Board came to that conclusion.

“We agree with him that other bars have had fights, but this was not the main reason. 

 “It’s the numerous warnings, yet nothing was done about the noise, so the board was left with no option but to close down the bar. 

“We have also informed the bar located on the S.L.C. complex that they need to heed the warning that families nearby have filed official complaints. 

“This is a residential area and families need to rest in the evenings and they cannot do that when the music from the bar is echoing in their residence.  

“Even this bar is widely open and those running the bar needs to somehow to contain the music within. 

“As far as I know, we are doing our mandates and if the bar owners want to challenge our decision in Court, then do so. If they win, then we will let the Court deal with the complaints from the families in the vicinity.”

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