Country pub lives to see another day

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    Woodlands Tavern's new co-owner Mike Butler inside the renovated country pub this week.

    AS many country pubs in New Zealand are closing, one Southland pub is getting a new lease on life.

    The Woodlands Tavern is set to reopen its doors on October 4.

    The pub’s new owners, Mike and Sharon Butler, of Invercargill, bought the tavern from Gus and Pauline Dermody in July this year and have spent the past several months renovating it.

    The Dermodys had owned the pub since 1994.

    Mr Butler said their original plan had been to convert the property into a cafe with motorcycle displays, but after talking with members of the Woodlands community they decided to continue to operate the business as a tavern.

    “After talking to the locals, we realised it was a meeting place for the community. There is a really good community here and this is their community hall.

    “…so we have decided to give it a go.”

    Mr Butler admitted country pubs were not always profitable and he had no intention of giving up his day job at Open Country Dairy, but that was not the goal.

    “We don’t need to make a profit. We just want to have a bit of fun. It’s a passion,” he said.

    “The focus is having a place for people to meet.”

    However, the couple had a few ideas in mind to build up the business.

    Those ideas included introducing a courtesy coach service to transport people between Invercargill and Woodlands on Friday and Saturday nights and hosting car boot sales every second Sunday, he said.

    The main bar had been decked out with guitars, skateboards and classic motorcycles, and it was hoped members of motorcycle and car clubs would visit.

    Mr Butler’s collection of 12 motorcycles would be displayed in the bar initially, but the aim was, over time, they would be replaced with motorbikes loaned from other people wanting to display their bikes, he said.

    “Motorcycles are a bit of a passion for us, and the whole key for us really would be for locals to display their classic motorcycles.”

    Southland publican John McHugh said he was pleased the Woodlands Tavern was reopening.

    Mr McHugh is a member of the Southland branch of Hospitality New Zealand and has been the owner of the Central Southland Lodge, also known as Winton’s Middle Pub, for 28 years.

    “I think it is very much good for Southland and the Woodlands community,” he said.

    “We like to think country pubs are the hubs of the community… a meeting place to get together for people, clubs and organisations in the area.”

    Mr McHugh said it was not easy running a country pub and he hoped the community would get behind the Woodlands Tavern.

    “I just encourage the locals to support it.

    “I think they have dodged a bullet, because once [country pubs] close, they [generally] stay closed,” he said.

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