BY JULIA WADE
A crowd of over 200 at the Mangawhai Tavern were transported back to the 1980’s recently, dancing the night away to well-known tunes from the era performed by dynamic cover band, Automatic ‘80’s.
However, although the event on October 20 was considered a success, punters have expressed frustration and bewilderment regarding the tavern’s two-drinks-per-person-at-the-bar rule, having to queue up to 20 minutes to buy drinks with only two bar staff attending the counter, and the attitude of some staff.
Party-goers also questioned why drinks were served in plastic cups, especially in regard to the Tavern’s pro-environmental stance. Discussions about the night have continued through the week on local Facebook pages.
Mangawhai Tavern manager Poni Sula has ‘heard some of the chat’ and welcomed the opportunity to respond and offer insight for disgruntled customers.
He says the Tavern is focused on providing the community and visitors with an enjoyable and safe venue to make the facility ‘an asset to the area, not a liability’.
“Which unfortunately from past attitudes and actions it had become,” he says. “The Tavern was fortunate enough to avoid any prosecution for past discretions because the manner and nature in which my team has enforced our liquor license. In cooperation with police, council and neighbours, we have constructed events and gigs that lower the risks of the adverse effects on the Tavern’s license, and adjusted policies around drinking, intoxication and harm minimisation for our guests, neighbours, and community.”
The new policies, which have been in effect for gigs and concerts since April 2017, include entertainment to conclude before 12am, closing the bar 30 minutes before bands finish, offering a maximum of serving two drinks per person at the bar and limiting the speed with which alcohol is served as well as the selection, such as no shots or large vessels after a certain time.
While some patrons are ‘used to the policies’, Sula says others who may not have visited the Tavern in over a year may be unaccustomed to the changes.
“It has taken over a year to help make the Tavern a family friendly site. It is sad to think that all of our good work was threatened by people who were misinformed or coming with an expectation of the past,” he says. “It was always the few bad seeds and poor attitudes that have caused the problems and these attitudes have been brought in to check with our policies. We are doing this for the betterment of the Tavern and in turn, the community we are part of.”
Tavern staff regularly have training and system development to help them deal with customer expectations and ‘try their best to provide the best experience and service within the policies’.
More headline acts are lined up for the summer season although due to director and staff focus on policy management, the nature of the events will be of a more ‘intimate setting’ with smaller gigs on offer under a 300 person capacity marquee instead of the big stage gigs of 1500.
“We have big name performers and bands that want to play here specifically because of the way we run our gigs,” he says. “The majority of people would rather us still operate and offer great gigs under these rules rather than risk heavier penalties – such as loss of license – for allowing an environment that is fraught with dangers of over intoxication and poor behaviour.“
As for the use of plastic cups, Sula says they were ‘eco cups’ which were collected for recycling.
“We are assured where possible our use of eco cups did not adversely affect the gig itself or our environment. We have reduced our waste by 50 per cent in general, and recycle and reuse where possible with Kaipara Refuse, and continue to grow our monthly street rubbish pick up. We are not perfect but we are making every effort to improve.”
Labour Weekend also marked the beginning of the Tavern’s first, and successful, Saturday morning market and the day was ‘a lot of fun’ Sula says.
“We hope that the ‘feel good’ summer we started over the weekend continues and that people who visit come with an open mind. Together with our community we will undo all the negativity of the past and look forward to a brighter and more sustainable future.”
An entertaining night dancing to 80’s tunes also caused disgruntlement for some punters over Mangawhai Tavern’s policies on alcohol consumption and service.