By Darren Coyne
A Lismore bar owner believes his business is being unfairly targeted by police because he refuses to sign up to the local Liquor Accord.
Jack’s Bar in Lismore was raided by 25 police on Friday night, including at least two senior inspectors, with patrons locked out for two hours while police executed a search warrant.
Members of the dog squad, riot squad, detectives and general duties officers descended on the bar around 10.30pm, ejecting patrons while they searched for drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Bar owner, Darren (Jack) Barry told Echonetdaily that police had found small amounts of cannabis and other items dumped by patrons in the public area but nothing of note in the private area upstairs, which is the area the warrant was targeting.
‘The warrant was for upstairs not downstairs so they weren’t really interested in any of that (small amounts of drugs), he said.
‘The warrant was for ice and MDMA and anything related to the manufacturing or distribution of those drugs.’
‘They found nothing.’
Mr Barry said his two children, aged 12 and 8, were upstairs asleep at the time of the raid.
‘A female police officer pushed the door open sending my 12 year old back across the room and then they lined them (the children) up and took their details without an adult present,’ he said.
Police attempted to stop Echonetdaily taking pictures during the raid, and also refused to answer any questions related to the raid.
Police did not attempt to search patrons, and laid no charges as a result of their endeavours.
Mr Barry said it was apparent local police were trying to force him out of business because he refused to sign up to the Liquor Accord.
“Without a doubt. They’ve told me that. At the last meeting I was told if I don’t sign the Accord they would make it so the venue gets declared, and I would only make half as much if I went to sell it,’ he said.
Mr Barry said the licensing officer, Senior Sergeant Wayne Crotty, had told him he was not a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a liquor licence.
The Echonetdaily has tried to contact Snr Sgt Crotty but received no response.
‘I believe I am more than qualified as I have worked professionally in this industry on a weekly basis, since February 1986 (30 years exactly) with 23 of those years being directly involved, on the ground level, at the forefront of this industry in this town,’ he said.
At the end of the two-hour raid, police officers were seen carrying a safe from the premises, which Mr Barry maintains was not linked to his business.
‘There are two safes. I use the big safe and have never used the little safe (which they took) and don’t even have a key’ he said.
‘They were rolling it around trying to see if there was anything inside and the police officer even asked me if I would help carry it downstairs,” Mr Barry said.
Mr Barry said he would be speaking with local politicians about the ongoing harassment from police, as well as a barrister.
‘This raid was the culmination of an intensive investigation into my business operations & had been ongoing since October 2015. Thousands upon thousands of taxpayer dollars and police man hours spent on extremely poor intelligence,’ Mr Barry wrote in a Facebook post after the raid.
Mr Barry said police were making out that he was a major player in the North Coast underworld but ‘anyone who knows me long term can tell you how ridiculous this notion is’.
He said it would be ludicrous to be involved in drugs while running such a high profile business.
He said he was the wrong target and urged police to ‘do your job properly’.
Meanwhile, Jack’s Bar is gearing up for another party on Friday night which is being organised by 3rd Eye Productions, the crew being taken to court by Richmond Valley Council for an alleged illegal dance party near Rapville on New Year’s Eve.
Dubbed ‘Standing Together for Our Right to Party’, the evening is the first of three events to raise funds for the crew’s legal defence.