Beloved pub unable to rise from ashes

Mitchells Tavern Social Club president Tony Manley (left) stands outside the remains of the...
Mitchells Tavern Social Club president Tony Manley (left) stands outside the remains of the tavern alongside pub patrons Ian Farquharson (centre) and Gary Newton. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The owners of a beloved Caversham pub have given up on reopening it after it was gutted in a devastating fire last year.

Mitchells Tavern was forced to close in June after a fire caused by an electrical issue tore through the pub.

Yesterday, the pub’s co-owner, Stephen Morris, confirmed it would be gone for good after 22 years of service.

Mr Morris said it would be too hard and too costly to get the pub up and running again.

"Everyone wanted us to go back in but, like I say, at this stage it’s just too hard.

"It would still be another year and a-half before anything would get done."

He said there was too much red tape to go through and it would cost nearly $300,000 to replace furniture, the kitchen and bar.

Mr Morris said the building was no longer in a repairable state and he suspected it would have to be demolished.

Mr Morris and his brother Bryan, who co-owned the business with him, would continue with their other jobs as an English tutor and electrician respectively.

He said the owner of the building, who was based in Auckland, was planning to open an establishment in the same location, but it would not be Mitchells.

"That’s the end of Mitchells as it was known.

"If they put another tavern in there, they won’t be able to call it Mitchells because that was our family name, associated with my great-grandfather."

Mr Morris said all the staff had managed to find other jobs.

Many still had jobs in hospitality in establishments around Dunedin, including at the Waterloo Hotel, Speight’s Ale House and the Mornington Tavern.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand put out the fire at Mitchells Tavern in June last year. PHOTO:...
Fire and Emergency New Zealand put out the fire at Mitchells Tavern in June last year. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Mr Morris said it was much easier running a pub when he started out with the Parkside, which became the Carisbrook Hotel in the 1980s.

"All you did in the pub back then was sell booze. It was nice and easy.

"You come in with a fistful of dollars and all you could buy was alcohol, which was a good way to go."

Mr Morris said the situation was "gutting", but he and his brother wanted to thank all the patrons who were loyal to the pub.

"A lot of these people have gone nowhere else because there was nothing else in town that was like it."

The pub had a social club associated with it from when it first opened, and it only wrapped up two weeks ago after hearing of the pub’s closure.

Club president Tony Manley said its members had been holding on to hope the pub would reopen, and had been meeting at the Waterloo in the interim.

"It’s gutting for the community because it was a great community hub and it was a big part of people’s lives."

Mr Manley said he used to go to the pub every night after work for a beer, and would end up meeting lots of people there.

"One time I was talking to this guy and he was in the same class in school as my mother.

"I call him ‘Dad’ now because he said ‘I could have been your father’ because I think they were boyfriend and girlfriend back then."

The Dunedin City Council issued a dangerous building notice following the fire.

A DCC spokesman said the owner of the building had completed work to remove any danger as outlined in the notice by September 29 last year.