Things will be Cooking (+ video)

New Zealand's ‘‘most famous bar'', the Captain Cook Tavern, will be for more than just students when it reopens early next year, its new operator says.

Tenant and operations manager Sheldon Lye said the finishing touches were being put on the Dunedin bar over the summer before a planned opening in February or March.

The latest iteration of the Cook would be for more than just students and the upstairs part would host live acts and functions.

‘‘I'd like to think it's a bar that you could bring your parents to for a drink, which I think has been lacking in Dunedin student bars for a long time,'' Mr Lye said.

Painter Robbie McPhee admires his handiwork as work on the refurbishment of the Captain Cook continues. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Painter Robbie McPhee admires his handiwork as work on the refurbishment of the Captain Cook continues. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
He knew from the experience of running Dunedin bar Boogie Nights - which he ran for the later part of this year until it closed last month - that traditional student bars involved a lot of risk for not much reward.

‘‘I think the days of the student bars are actually probably numbered.

‘‘There is not a lot of profit in that market and there is behavioural issues.''

He and a group of business partners took on the tenancy, with negotiations finishing recently, because of the strength of the brand and out of desire to add to its colourful history.

‘‘This is the most famous bar in New Zealand. There is no better, bigger or more vibrant brand than the Captain Cook.

‘‘It's notorious, it's infamous.''

Since taking on the tenancy he had heard from many former patrons - some of them well-known New Zealanders - who wanted to share their memories of going to the pub.

The reopening meant people at university now would be able to tell their children about the good times they had at the bar.

‘‘It gives people a reason to send their kids back to Dunedin. At the moment we are starting to lose some of that.''

The downstairs would include a semicircular bar, a sunny courtyard, with little touches such as pressed tin ceilings connecting the building to its past.

Upstairs would be run separately as a function and events centre, which would probably include the hosting of local bands.

‘‘I'd love to bring back a little bit of the Dunedin Sound [to the bar].''

The venue was founded in 1860 but closed in June last year.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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