Criterion to open temporarily

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The Criterion Hotel will reopen temporarily this weekend.

The Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, which owns the building in the town’s Victorian precinct, bought the business last year from former publican Sue Cameron-Duncan in a sale that was settled on December 6.

Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman Graeme Clark said negotiations for a permanent tenant were continuing, but the trust wanted to open the hotel this weekend to help cater for the influx of visitors to Oamaru for the 64th New Zealand Motor Caravan Association National Rally.

About 650 vans, and more than 1000 people, from all around New Zealand are expected to be in Oamaru for the rally.

“My feeling is that overseas tourist [numbers] may dwindle for the next year with the coronavirus, so we’ve really got to take advantage of our local tourists, New Zealanders, and particularly these people who are in campervans who will come back again if they have a good experience,” Mr Clark said.

“So we’ve decided to open the Criterion for the two days in the meantime.”

Sally-Ann Donnelly, one of Oamaru’s best-known restaurateurs and a former owner of the business, will be the licenced operator of the Criterion Hotel this weekend, he said.

It will be open from 11.30am to 4pm tomorrow and Sunday for light lunches, snacks and alcohol.

The trust is also organising a free “Harbour Street Party” on Sunday, from 10am to 4pm, with live music, penny farthings, classic cars and Victorian dress and displays.

It would kick-start the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust’s 30-year celebrations, having hosted its first public annual meeting in 1990.