By Clyde Mooney
The former licensee of MJ Finnegans hotel in Newcastle, NSW has been fined three charges of $11,000 in Newcastle Local Court for alleged security breaches.
Trevor Thomson was licensee of MJ Finnegans, which after being redeveloped by its new owners has quickly grown over 18 months to enjoy capacity crowds and long queues.
The Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) arrived one night at closing time (2am) and found three breaches of the hotel's licence conditions, which included requirements for security personnel to patrol local streets and guard the entrance to a nearby public pathway.
There had been no complaints nor escalation of violence registered against the venue, despite the huge increase in patronage.
Thomson does not have a history of mismanagement, with only an intoxication fine against him prior to the OLGR crackdown, to which he took the cheaper option of paying rather than challenging.
Speaking to TheShout, he expressed disappointment at the way the story has been reported in the media, with loose claims of 'possible jail time' having caused great consternation amongst family and friends. None of the media outlets contacted him for comment.
"I think the fines are quite hefty and over the top for these breaches… it was a simple case of miscommunication between management and security.
"No-one can say with honesty, 'my pub runs like clockwork every night' – there is always a lot going on in a busy hotel and you take things as they come," he said.
The ruling comes just as six pubs in the city's Hamilton entertainment precinct were hit with permanent licence conditions restricting their service of alcohol.
While MJ Finnegans was recently listed as the state's third most violent venue, Thomson said the resurgent pub had simply been a victim of its own popularity.
"I don't like it implied that the pub stood for violence," he said.
"If a patron is legal age and not intoxicated, what further questions do we have the right to ask: Is your ex-boyfriend inside? Is he going to start a fight with your new boyfriend?"
Thomson is now licensee at the Town Hall hotel, in Waratah, which is owned by the same company.
"I was never unemployed; the owners still think I am doing a good job," he said.