Haunted hotel back in business

Royce Clark has taken the reins at St Bathans’ landmark Vulcan Hotel this week ending a month...
Royce Clark has taken the reins at St Bathans’ landmark Vulcan Hotel this week ending a month-long closure — the first in its 140-year history. PHOTO: CHRISTIE CLARK
The ghost stories are flowing as freely as the beer at one of New Zealand’s most famous pubs.

The Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans staged a soft opening for locals on Wednesday ahead of its official opening this evening.

West Melton man Royce Clark, one of six shareholders in the landmark hotel, has stepped in to take over the running of the pub and as custodian of its famed ghost.

Mr Clark staged an intervention to resolve issues between shareholders Brendan Richards and former publicans Jude and Mike Kavanagh after questions of ownership and obtaining a new liquor licence led to the Vulcan closing for a month for the first time in its 140-year history.

The company, Peyman Holdings, was set up in 2011 to buy the building but, at some point in the intervening years, ownership had been transferred into the Kavanaghs’ names, Mr Clark said.

That come to light last year when the couple left as publicans because of Mr Kavanagh’s health.

Mr Richards told the Otago Daily Times last week he had wanted to purchase the building on a lease-to-buy arrangement but that fell through because of banks’ nerves about financing anything related to the hospitality industry in a Covid-19 environment.

He also indicated the hotel could reopen soon.

Cue Mr Clark, who said the Kavanaghs were unable to return because of Mr Kavanagh’s health and mortgage payments had fallen behind due to the closure and unresolved issues.

In the interim, various "ridiculous offers" to buy the hotel had flowed in.

"It is just people saw it was closed and they make assumptions it has gone broke or something and think they can get it for stupid money."

That had prompted him to up his share, he said.

"I decided to pump some money into it and get it up and running."

The pub reopened at 10am on Wednesday after Mr Clark notified some locals he had known for "40-odd" years and let the bush telegraph do the rest.

The reopening is good news for the most famous "resident", the ghost of a prostitute nicknamed "The Rose", who had been left in the hotel without companionship.

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