Varsity buying, closing bar

The University of Otago is in the process of buying the Gardens Tavern and will close the popular student bar.

The decision has left the students trying to keep it open distraught.

"I was pretty gutted, pretty distraught when I heard. My flatmates were almost in tears, and I was not far from tears myself," Blake Luff told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

He and flatmates Nathan Parker and Tom McKnight launched a campaign this week to try to convince 2000 students to invest $2500 each so a company could be set up and a loan raised to buy the drinking hole.

"The Gardies" has been a student institution since it opened in the 1960s.

Mr Luff said the response to the campaign to keep the tradition alive had been overwhelming.

"My phone was going non-stop all day and I had emails from Auckland, south. From the number of people who were wanting to commit, I think it would have been realistic to get 200 investors.

"But that dream ended yesterday when the university issued a two-paragraph media release saying it had made an offer last week to buy the tavern and the offer had been accepted.

There were "certain conditions" attached to the sale which had not yet been resolved, the statement said.

Assuming the sale was confirmed, several alternative uses for the building and grounds would be considered before a recommendation was made to the university council, the release said.

When contacted, university head of communications Megan McPherson said the substance of the conditions was commercially sensitive.

She confirmed the alternative uses the university were considering did not include keeping the premises open as a bar.

The 2080sq m tavern site in Castle St, near the Dunedin Botanic Garden, has a rateable value of $1.025 million.

It is understood the university may have paid $1.5 million for the property, but Ms McPherson would not confirm that, saying the price was confidential.

The tavern is owned by Gardies Ltd.

Majority shareholder Peter Innes-Jones could not be reached for comment last night.

In March last year, the university bought the Bowling Green Hotel in Frederick St to convert into teaching and research spaces for the medical school.

Mr Luff said he and his friends would be organising a "last hurrah" event.

"We'll definitely be doing something ... to mourn the loss of a close friend."



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