Last call sounded for the Commercial Hotel

The current owners of the Commercial Hotel, in Omakau, will close its doors tomorrow for the last...
The current owners of the Commercial Hotel, in Omakau, will close its doors tomorrow for the last time just over a year after taking over. Photo: Ruby Shaw
The pub voted best country hotel in New Zealand seven years ago is closing its doors this weekend.

The Commercial Hotel in Omakau will stop trading tomorrow, leaving the small Central Otago town without a hotel. The hotel had been operating in Omakau since 1898.

Hotel operators Jared Miller and Chantelle Walker declined to comment when contacted.

But the last meal was served in the restaurant on Thursday night and the hotel would shut its bar tomorrow afternoon.

Landlord Harshae Singh said it saddened him that the hotel was closing.

The priority for him was to get the business up and running again and he hoped to come to an agreement with someone quickly. Mr Singh, who lives in Auckland, said he bought the building in 2019. He was a big fan of Omakau and eventually wanted to live there.

He declined further comment.

Mr Miller and Ms Walker took over the lease of the complex just over a year ago, starting in late October last year.

In 2016, the business was named the New Zealand Country Hotel of the Year at the New Zealand Hospitality Association Awards.

The loss of the hotel would be a blow for the town, with the hotel becoming a popular turn-off place for those using the Otago Central Rail Trail.

Schist Rock Lodge owner Colin Stevenson said the community was gutted the hotel had advised the community it was closing.

"It is sad that the hotel which won NZ Country Hotel of the year in 2016 and got through Covid with previous lessees is now in this position," he said.

"Hopefully the doors will open again soon with another operator."

Work had already been done to limit the damage of the closure.

"In the interim, other hotels and taverns in the area along with accommodation providers have ensured that guests riding the Otago Central Rail Trail have new dinner reservations along with new accommodation which has been arranged by the Cycle Company Operators which is a credit to them."

Central Otago District Councillor Tracy Paterson said the community was saddened that the hotel was closing down.

"It’s a meeting place, a central point, a focus for the whole community."

Finding somewhere to eat in the evening would be a problem for locals and also tourists on the rail trail, Mrs Paterson said.

The pub closure would also impact events such as the Omakau Trots on January 2.

There were other accommodation providers in the area and the camping ground, but the loss of rooms at the Commercial would definitely be felt by the community, Mrs Paterson said.

It was a 20 minute drive between Omakau and Alexandra if someone wanted to eat out. There was Blacks Hotel, at Ophir, and Chatto Creek Tavern on the way. — Additional reporting Steve Hepburn