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Herbert and Marise Martin are the new publicans at the landmark building at the entrance to the town’s Victorian precinct.
They have signed the lease for the business, which is owned, along with the 1877 edifice, by the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust.
Mr and Mrs Martin will be busy redecorating the interior before reopening the Criterion in early November, in good time for the annual Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations.
The history buffs, who have a long record of volunteering in the precinct, are "terribly excited" by the venture.
"We want to restore the Criterion to an establishment worthy of that name — something all others shall be measured against for hospitality," Mrs Martin said.
"We’re relishing the opportunity to be the fortunate people who get to reopen the doors."
The hotel would be open from 11am, seven days a week.
"It’s what the Oamaruvians deserve," Mrs Martin said.
Lunches, coffee, drinks and evening meals would be available and boutique accommodation would be provided upstairs.
The formal dining room would be "an oasis of calm", featuring white tablecloths and elegant furnishings.
To the rear of the ground floor would be a large sitting room with an air of a gentleman’s club, with armchairs grouped for relaxing conversations.
The snug, tucked in behind the bar, would be a "temperance room" where guests could partake of non-alcoholic drinks.
The food and beverages would be sourced where possible from local producers, including the Criterion’s neighbouring businesses.
"It will be honest fare with the emphasis on fresh and local," Mr Martin said.
They hoped residents would see the hotel as their own "local" and enjoy its ambience.
Special events would be held on red-letter days, and meetings and group gatherings could be held in the downstairs rooms throughout the year.
The Martins would also like to offer outdoor dining in the courtyard facing Harbour St in summer.
They would be seeking a cook and part-time bar staff.
The Criterion has been closed since November last year. The most recent publican was Sue Cameron-Duncan, who had bought the business in 2016 from restaurateur Sally-Ann Donnelly.
Mrs Cameron-Duncan sold the business to the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust in December last year. The trust has carried out maintenance work on the building while it was unoccupied.
Chairman Graeme Clark said the trust was very happy that the flagship of the precinct would be open again.