Uncertain future for student pub

The Captain Cook Tavern, one of few remaining student pubs in Dunedin, may be closing its doors. Photo by ODT Files.
The Captain Cook Tavern, one of few remaining student pubs in Dunedin, may be closing its doors. Photo by ODT Files.
The future of historic Dunedin student watering hole the Captain Cook is unclear.

DB Breweries' lease of the bar runs out at the end of June, and the operations manager of Cook Brothers Bars, which subleases the bar, believed the bar would most likely close when the lease ran out.

''I would find it hard to believe that anyone would [take over the bar],'' Guy Randall said.

However, Noel Kennedy, one of three directors of Orari Street Properties Investments Ltd, which owns the building, said there was no question of the Cook closing, ''and we will be fighting to make sure that never happens under our watch''. Various parties were being spoken to about taking over the lease, including DB, but ''nothing has been finalised at this point'', he said.

''The Cook has such a brand that it would be ridiculous to let that disappear.''

He said the bar could be operated with a ''different format'' once its sublease ran out.

When contacted again, Mr Randall stood by his comments the Cook would likely close.

''We are not going to be there. It's up to the market if someone wants to do it, but personally I don't think [anyone will].''

The bar made less money than in the past because students' drinking patterns had changed. More were heading to the Octagon to drink, he said.

The company, which had taken its name from the bar, would be sad to see the Dunedin institution go, but hoped to go out with a bang, he said.

''There will certainly be a lot of activity during O-Week and then again towards the end of the lease, where maybe we dive back in history and might have some bands back upstairs again.''

The bar had been a ''large part of student culture for forever and a day'', he said.

''It [was] an important part of Dunedin culture in the 1980s, with the Dunedin sound movement. A lot of great bands have been through there.''

DB Breweries senior communications adviser Simon Smith said the lease expired on June 29 and the company had no intention of extending it.

''The fact that DB holds the head lease is essentially an historical anomaly and, as such, DB has advised the landlord that it does not intend to enter into a new lease of the premises.''

The Captain Cook Tavern, known as the Cook, was established in 1860 and stands as the last of the three main student pubs in North Dunedin. The Gardens Tavern and the Bowler were earlier bought by the University of Otago, for conversion into academic facilities.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

The flow on effect

The flow on effect from supermarket alcohol sales is hitting these pubs very hard. People are 'smashed' before they go out and the pub gets hit when they're caught selling alcohol to intoxicated people.

The good old days at the Cook

Pity to see it go, if it does. Love The Cook! I grew up there, from about eight years old, onwards. My Dad was the chef upstairs and we spent all Saturday mornings there while he made his world famous Cook pies and then in the afternoon while he was getting prepped for dinner that night.

This was when there were bands upstairs; shh, we use to play the drums in the mornings; Netherworld Dancing Toys were one of the bands, (before they made it big).

Mr McDow owned all the video games and used to clear them on Saturday mornings and put credits on for us to play the games to our hearts' content. The students use to hate these kids that had to pull chairs up to see the screen and then they had all the high scores, that could not be beaten.

Hope it does not close. I always go back when I am in Dunedin - do not buy it Otago University and close it!

Food is not as good as when Dad was there and I am very sure there is none of the locals left from those days. Jenny the bartender use to give us coke and raspberry in the afternoons. Agghh, the good old Cook days. Then I went to Otago University and it took on a whole new meaning.



Vaughan Elder, please check up on your watering holes.

There were four 'main student pubs in North Dunedin", in no particular order - The Bowling Green Hotel, The Gardens Tavern, The Captain Cook Tavern and of course number four - The Oriental Hotel! Heard of that one? They went through different names etc, but are/were still the same places right through. Perhaps soon the forgotten one will be the only survivor.

'Forever' - i.e. since the 1980s

"The bar had been a 'large part of student culture for forever and a day'," said Mr Randall, but before that it was a mixed community bar, and this continued long after the legendary Phil Ruston upgraded it, to fit in with the altered conditions resulting from the abolition of the 6 o'clock swill and the revolutionary idea that bars could stay open till 10pm without the world falling apart.

The lounge bar became the place where students, staff and largely white-collar workers congregated at tables, and the side bar remained the haven for tradesmen and labourers and dart players with high stools and "leaner" tables. The mix of people had a good effect on overall behaviour, with no group assuming they had the "majority right" to be a pain in the ask-yer-mother-for-sixpence to everyone else.

Not uncertain at all

Recent history shows that the university will outbid everyone else for it and shut it down. Just like the Bowler and the Gardies.

You dont need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out 

Dwindling numbers

It was quite noticeable on Melbourne Cup day last year; only around 20 people were in the pub to watch the race at 5pm. It was plain also that none were students but either worked in the area or happened to be passing.

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