Graeme Clark had to wait nearly 365 days for a drink at his beloved watering hole.
The Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman quenched his thirst on Monday, when the Criterion Hotel, owned by the trust, reopened under new lessees Herbert and Marise Martin.
Surrounded by patrons decked out in Victorian attire, Mr Clark was the first to buy a beverage and said the launch was a momentous occasion for the trust.
“This is the flagship, it welcomes people to the precinct – it’s 30 years of the trust too, this is a big moment.”
It had been a tough few years for the hotel, but he was confident the trust found the right people to take over the lease.
“They’ve done some amazing stuff – the trust wishes Herbert and Marise all the very best for their success.”
The hotel, opened in 1887, has been closed for the past year, and its reopening was the culmination of consideration and sensitive action to return the building to the community, Mrs Martin said.
“We love this place, and it made us very sad indeed to see the doors shut for such a long time.”
It captured both of their loves, hospitality and heritage, and they had created a traditional English-style menu, with the help of North Otago businesses.
“It’s absolutely perfect what we’ve been able to bring together.
“We are absolutely delighted to serve the people of Oamaru and beyond.”
The couple and the trust spent hours working on returning the bar, restaurant, and six bedrooms to their roots.
“What we did was we listened to what the building told us and that was to restore to kind of the way she would have been in 1887 . it’s an extraordinarily beautiful building when you view it from the street, and it could not be anything other than traditional – to be anything other would be plain wrong.”