Century-old pub rivalry put on hold

Opunake now a one-pub town

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014
surf inn
CHARLOTTE CURD/FAIRFAX NZ
Opunake fire chief Rodney Woods surveys the damage after a kitchen fire at the Opunake Surf Inn.

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Close to 100 years of healthy rivalry between Opunake's two pubs has been pushed aside after a fire ripped through the Surf Inn at the weekend.

The town is now down to one pub - and it's already feeling the pressure.

But the owners of the Club Hotel, just up the main street in the next block, were already gearing up to support the Surf Inn owners, Nee Ratahi of the Club Hotel said yesterday.

While the Club's owners, Jimmy Dodunski and Darryl Hickey, were unavailable at the weekend, "the boys" intended to catch up with Surf Inn owners Jason McLachlan and his partner, Carla, "to sort out what they can do for them", Ratahi said.

She had already been down to the Surf Inn to offer her commiserations.

"They are a lovely couple. It's the last thing they need. But it's great everyone got out safely. After all, it's just a building and no lives were lost."

In the meantime the Club Hotel was already getting hammered with the overflow of Surf Inn clients.

"Obviously we will have to get in extra stock and extra staff. Last night [Saturday] was really busy. We just had to get on with it and deal with the big influx."

The weekly Sunday pool tournament planned for the Surf Inn was moved to the Club Hotel, she said. "I said we'd have it here."

The Club Hotel was busy organising a celebration of its 100 years in the trade this October, she said.

Former Surf Inn owner Phil Brown, who had the inn for nine years, said it was originally called the Opunake Hotel. In 1914 the hotel was burnt down and it was rebuilt the following year. It became the Opunake Tavern when it was downsized and its accommodation removed in the 1960s.

"The old girl's been there 99 years. It's very sad. But it's been down before and it's come back again.

"The Club Hotel was also destroyed by fire ... and also rebuilt."

The rivalry between the two drinking establishments was legendary, he said.

"That's Opunake for you. We have two pubs, two chemists and two Four Squares," he said.

The original Opunake Hotel spread through from Tasman St to King St. It boasted stables behind the hotel for the stage coach.

"I was forever picking up horse shoes and bits of harness and stuff," Brown said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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