By James Atkinson
A patron who was refused entrance to a Sydney nightclub has launched legal proceedings claiming he was discriminated against and defamed by a security guard who wrongly accused him of being drunk.
Sportswriter and broadcaster Richard Sleeman last year launched defamation proceedings against Tuloch Pty Ltd – the corporation that operates the Palms on Oxford nightclub in Darlinghurst – as well as its sole director Peter Inwood and licensee, Rodney Innes.
Sleeman, who is aged 62, also took separate proceedings in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal claiming he was discriminated against on the basis of his age.
He told TheShout that he had not had even a single drink when he joined the queue to enter Palms at 11.30pm on December 23, 2011.
He said that in spite of his sobriety, the bouncer at Palms singled him out, telling him: "You are way too drunk. Go and sober up somewhere else. You can't come in."
The broadcaster told TheShout it was obvious that the real reason he was refused entry was his age.
"I hadn't had a drink, I was conservatively dressed and not in any way animated. It would be out of the question for anyone to assume that I was affected by alcohol," he said.
"It was instantly recognisable as an age discrimination thing. I was probably a bad look in the queue."
He said he is now awaiting a ruling by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, which reserved its decision on his age discrimination claim following a three-day hearing.
Defamation hearing set for June 5
Meanwhile, Sleeman's concurrent lawsuit alleging he was defamed by the Palms bouncer continues in the District Court of NSW.
He said that being wrongly declared drunk by the bouncer on a busy street damaged his reputation as he is known to take an anti-alcohol stance in his role as a broadcaster.
"It was Christmas Eve on Oxford Street, can you imagine how many people were within earshot? There must have been 100 people who heard what was said," he told TheShout.
Late last year Sleeman sought to add the security guard and his employer, ADCAS Pty Ltd, as fourth and fifth defendants, but these proceedings were struck out by the Court on April 12.
Palms attemped to have the entire matter struck out on the basis that Sleeman's lawyers had allegedly not complied with timetables and because of the "unsatisfactory nature" of the claims against the fourth and fifth defendants, but this was unsuccessful.
The defamation matter has been set down for hearing on June 5 this year.
District Court Judge Judith Gibson ordered the parties to attend private mediation in the hope of settling the matter.
Sleeman told TheShout that licensed premises need to be aware that they cannot discriminate against people using the excuse that they are drunk.
"It's humiliating and it's embarrassing and it's defamatory," he said.
He said the police had informed him that bars are in breach of their liquor licensing conditions if they exclude patrons on the basis of their age, race, sexuality or gender.
Sleeman is a former National Press Club Australian sportswriter of the year who co-authored the biography of rugby league player Brad Fittler.
In 2004 Sleeman made headlines
when he won a $434,000 payout in defamation proceedings taken against Nationwide News, publisher of The Australian newspaper. This amount was later reduced
on appeal by Nationwide News to $271,665.