A WAITRESS says she went public about John Key repeatedly pulling her hair at the Parnell cafe where she works because the Prime Minister "feels he is untouchable".
Amanda Bailey, 26, told the Herald that while she regretted the attention the controversy brought on her workplace and co-owners, she had no regrets about exposing Mr Key's behaviour.
"I didn't think it was appropriate behaviour and I didn't feel I should have to put up with that," the Rosie cafe worker told the Herald.
"I expected more from him and I want the public to be aware."
She said Mr Key's unwanted physical attention was wrong.
"I felt the actions weren't those of a Prime Minister and I felt New Zealand should know that. It is because he is the PM that I went to the media. John Key feels he is untouchable."
Her bosses, Hip Group owners Jackie Grant and Scott Brown, told the Herald they were disappointed Ms Bailey - who they say has "strong political points of view" - went public rather than coming to them directly with her concerns. However, they are hoping to "put this all behind us" now.
Hip Group owns several cafes in Auckland, including Rosie.
"We believe Amanda's intention was never to reflect any ill will to the Hip Group or to her co-workers. Had we been aware that Amanda had a grievance we would have acted but she did not make an official complaint. She said nothing to us.
"The Prime Minister is a regular at Rosie and he's well loved amongst the staff. He always comes in with his wife Bronagh and his security detail, and the staff are always happy to accommodate them."
A political storm erupted after Ms Bailey posted an anonymous letter on the left-leaning website The Daily Blog yesterday, saying Mr Key had behaved like a "schoolyard bully" when visiting the cafe during the past six months.
She wrote that he had pulled on her ponytail on repeated occasions while visiting with wife Bronagh, despite the waitress making it clear the physical contact was offensive and unwanted, even threatening to hit him if he did not desist.
He eventually apologised by giving her two bottles of his own pinot noir wine.
Mr Key's office responded by issuing an apology for any offence caused, saying his interactions were intended to be "light-hearted".
Speaking from Los Angeles airport en route to Turkey to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, Mr Key told One News he was a regular at the cafe and had a "fun relationship" with staff.
"There's always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that's all there really was to it."
However, his actions were inappropriate in hindsight, Mr Key admitted.
"But in the context of 'we have lots of fun and games there', there's always practical jokes and things," he said.
"It's a very warm, friendly relationship. In that context you'd say yes, but if you look at it now, no."
A source told the Herald Mr Key had been going to the cafe for years and would regularly enjoy "banter" with the staff on his Friday morning and Saturday afternoon visits.
"John Key used to call one of the waitresses Princess. He was always matey with the girls."
Human Rights Commissioner Jackie Blue issued a statement saying it was never okay to touch someone without their permission.
"There are no exceptions."
The National Council of Women said in an open letter Mr Key had crossed the line and "joined the list of people outed for sexism".
"We are disappointed to learn of your unwanted touching of a cafe worker.
"We appreciate your apology to her and we understand that your actions were well-intentioned and not meant to offend or do the worker any harm.
"You no doubt know that it's never okay to touch someone without their permission. You probably think that you've never touched someone in such a way before.
"However, this incident shows that you have crossed the line. You will now be aware of the impact -- the worker described how vulnerable and embarrassed she felt."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.