Pub rebuilds future on colourful past

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 18/11/2013
bower tavern
IAIN MCGREGOR
Historic Bower Tavern site was quake damaged, demolished, then red zoned. Despite this, owner Katrina Hargen is rebuilding using 18 containers.

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Fire, earthquakes, demolition and government red-zoning have failed to kill off a Christchurch pub boasting more than 150 years of colourful history.

The quake-hit Bower Tavern is being rebuilt on the corner of New Brighton Rd and Bower Ave using 18 steel containers.

The site's links to licensed premises date back to the 1860s and part of the now-demolished tavern was built more than 100 years ago.

Early pubs based there survived attempts to reduce the number of drinking establishments in an area known for drunkenness and limited police presence, and a fire that destroyed the hotel in 1908.

However, the site's future was in doubt when the land was written off as part of the Government's post-quake zoning despite being a commercial property.

Owner Katrina Hargen said she never intended to give up the land. Her family owned the pub for about 20 years before selling in 2008 to an Australian firm that later went into receivership.

She bought it back shortly before the September 2010 quake. The tavern was damaged in that quake before being wrecked five months later.

"It was never an option for us that we weren't putting something back there," Hargen said.

"I live in the area myself and there's nothing out there. You can't leave everyone out here and not provide services for them."

Construction of the bar - renamed The Bower - and the new Urban Corner cafe/restaurant is expected to be complete in about six weeks.

It is likely to be the largest single container structure in the city.

Being red-zoned came with additional rebuild challenges, the most trying of which was securing insurance. Geotechnical reports showed the land had not sunk and the city council was supportive of the plans, Hargen said.

"It's definitely not for the faint-hearted, but it is do-able. We've ticked every box very carefully."

Containers were not the first choice but appeared the easiest, Hargen said.

In reality, it had been costly and time-consuming.

"Getting 18 welded together, cut out and levelled . . . [is] a big headache. The physics of 18 containers locked together is quite daunting."

The structure's temporary consent is for five years, but Hargen hoped the council would give approval for it to become permanent.

"There's a lot of risk and a lot of chance with what we're doing but I still back it," she said.

Hargen hopes to employ local staff and be ready for an opening in January.

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- The Press

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