'First to bring Guinness into Christchurch': Iconic bar owner ‘had biggest heart’

Stan O’Keefe, 82, passed away on August 17. He and wife Lynne are well-known for running the...
Stan O’Keefe, 82, passed away on August 17. He and wife Lynne are well-known for running the iconic Bailies bar, originally in Cathedral Square and now in St Albans. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Stan O’Keefe poured his last glass of Guinness inside a spiritual home almost a decade ago, but he will always be associated with Ireland’s iconic pint in Christchurch.

The last mine host at Bailies in Cathedral Square’s old Warners Hotel, O’Keefe, 82, died on August 17 after a long battle with illness.

While Irish bars have mushroomed in Christchurch since Stan started running Bailies in the 1980s, the West Coaster claimed one notable milestone proclaiming: “We were the first to bring Guinness and the Guinness glasses into Christchurch.”

Stan was a fixture in the ground floor bar, a regular haunt of tourists, Americans heading to, or returning from, the Operation Deep Freeze base in Antarctica and journalists from the adjacent The Press newspaper headquarters.

Warners Hotel. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Warners Hotel. Photo: Geoff Sloan
He and wife Lynne O’Keefe took over Bailies after running the Imperial’s bottle store and the Yaldhurst Hotel; he was behind the bar and was pulled from the rubble when the deadly earthquake damaged the heritage-listed building beyond repair on February 22, 2011.

Undeterred by the disaster, the O’Keefe’s resurrected Bailies the following year on the corner of Colombo St and Edgeware Rd in St Albans.

They salvaged items from Warners to add an air of authenticity to the new Bailies while a smattering of Irish rebuild workers replaced the fly-in fly-out Americans to maintain an international flavour.

But that change of scene ensured things were never quite the same for the couple.

Bailies Bar & Restaurant. Photo: zomato.com
Bailies Bar & Restaurant. Photo: zomato.com
“We were 28 years in Warners. It (St Albans) wasn’t as much Stan’s thing as being in the centre of the city and meeting different people all the time,” Lynne said.

She revealed Stan bristled at being classified as a publican.

“He did not like that, he was more of a businessman . . . an innovator.”

Awarded an MBE in 1973 for his services to job creation on the West Coast, Stan and friend John McCarthy established Christchurch’s first large scale liquour outlet and pioneered the trade by introducing ‘fill-your-own” flagon and “swappa crate” discount beer.

Stan O'Keefe at Warners Hotel in 2002. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Stan O'Keefe at Warners Hotel in 2002. Photo: Geoff Sloan
On a trip to Ireland and the UK in 1988 he arranged to bulk import draught Guinness and switched Bailies from an English to an Irish-themed pub.

A wake was held for Stan at the new Bailies on Sunday, where locals young and old gathered to reminisce.

“Sometimes he was a bit grumpy, but in other ways he was very kind and generous,” Lynne said.

“That’s been reflected in the number of comments we’ve had from past staff and backpackers that passed through.”

Former staff member Glenda King summed up O’Keefe’s character on a tribute page: “Over times when people would come in down on their luck and he would always help be it food or even a room, he did have the biggest heart.”

 

 

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