Farewell the Cook

May 31st, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Critic reports:

The Captain Cook Tavern’s long history looks set to come to a close, with the pub’s lease expiring un-renewed on 29 June. James Arnott is one of the owners of Cook Brothers Bars, which has operated the pub for nine years, along with other establishments in the Octagon, Queenstown, Christchurch and Auckland. He told Critic that neither his company nor Dominion Breweries, which holds the main lease on the property, were interested in continuing the lease. 

Arnott said that revenue at the Cook had fallen 40 per cent in the last five years, which he attributed to a “massive change in student culture.” Students drank less frequently, and were more likely to drink at home when they did. Meanwhile, the high rent on the large property had not reduced, and “major renovations” were required to keep the ageing building up to standard. General Manager Matt Barakauskas said that the pub’s staff faced unemployment due to the closure, but that efforts were being made to secure them employment elsewhere. …

If the Cook closes, it will bring to an end 153 years of operation. The establishment began in 1860, although the present building was constructed in 1874 after the original “aged wooden structure” was demolished. According to an article published in the Otago Daily Times on 8 June 1909, the pub “had always one or two permanent boarders” well into the twentieth century, and at least two people died while living in the then-named “Captain Cook Hotel.”

The Cook has had a long reputation of brushing the edge of liquor licensing laws. Around the turn of the twentieth century, The Cook’s publicans were fined on multiple occasions for secretly selling bottled beer on days when the pub was supposed to be shut, and patrons who had been forbidden to buy alcohol were often hauled before the courts for having sly pints at the Hotel. In more recent years, the wildly popular “Cook-a-thon” party held at the end of lectures earned the owners a warning from the Liquor Licensing Authority for encouraging excessive drinking.

As the University expanded in the 1970s, students formed an increasing percentage of the patrons. However, licensing laws that allowed the sale of liquor in supermarkets led canny students to pre-load as a “more cost effective option,” according to Arnott. He also believed, “with a small bit of confidence,” that the increasing use of other recreational drugs among students meant that patrons came to the club tripping, and interested only in drinking water. Whatever the reasons for its demise, the Captain Cook’s taps look set to run dry before next semester.

How very sad. I spent four years at and had many great nights at the Cook. It was also the venue for my 21st. With both the Cook and Gardies gone, it just won’t be the same there.

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18 Responses to “Farewell the Cook”

  1. Tauhei Notts (1,677 comments) says:

    I think this a consequence of the supermarkets selling grog.
    Once upon a time, about forty years ago, the only place you could buy take away beer was a hotel bottle store. The cost differential between the bottle store and the public bar was not much.
    Nowadays the supermarkets are open all hours and the cost differential is immense. Like, I bought 12 heineken for $20.99 on special. Then I went to a bar and paid $24 for three bottles.
    But the bars over the past forty years have been stuck with incredible compliance costs that have grown incrementally year on year on year. For example; 40 years ago a tax code declaration form was one side of A5 paper. Nowadays it is four sides of A4. An employer had to do a wages tax reconciliation once a year. Now he has to do it twelve times a year. And there are a myriad of things that bloggers could add in here.
    So the bars need a big gross profit percentage to cover those increasing overheads.
    But the customers are seeing the price differential and moving their custom elsewhere. It is a change in New Zealand society and I am unsure whether it is for the best.
    Interestingly, our sports club, which has a bar, can buy stubbies cheaper from the local supermarket, than the brewery can supply directly to us. Of course the supermarkets do not retail kegs.
    There has been a revolution in the grog trade.

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  2. In Vino Veritas (138 comments) says:

    “just won’t be the same”. Never truer words said. I spent three years at Otago University and spent a good amount of time at both the Cook and the Gardies. A piece of Dunedin has dissappeared with the demise of these two, well, institutions (for those that were there). I think I’ll lift a glass to them tonight. And gather a few mates who went to Otago and lift another couple or five.

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  3. David Garrett (6,929 comments) says:

    Four years David? I didn’t realise you had a degree in either law or engineering…

    [DPF: Ha, I don't have a degree in anything. Far too much time at the institutions above!]

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  4. Sidey (249 comments) says:

    David Garrett (3,837) Says:
    Four years David? I didn’t realise you had a degree in either law or engineering…

    Perhaps first year didn’t go so well, courtesy of the Cook & the Gardies…. he wouldn’t have been the first!

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  5. Andrei (2,536 comments) says:

    An undergraduate Honours degree takes four years for most subjects Mr Garrett

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  6. alex Masterley (1,507 comments) says:

    It is sad to hear the “Cook” is closing.
    I was tossed out once because I was wearing school uniform. And I had a good many pleasant evening nights there before I shifted my patronage to the “GARDENS” (and not the bloody “gardies”) in my last 2 years at Otago.

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  7. Kleva Kiwi (285 comments) says:

    I spent three years at the cook (and in between I went to the odd lecture)
    Sad to see the closing of a cornerstone of Otago student life

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  8. Captain Neurotic (206 comments) says:

    I spent five years at the University of Otago and was a frequent patron of both the Garden Tavern and the Cook. I miss the care free days of a good drinking session at both bars. Waking up early and excited for cook-a-thons, to the extent that I am the proud owner of a Cook blazer! (80 pints to qualify).

    Nb – I am now a professional and graduated with two degrees :-)

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  9. David Garrett (6,929 comments) says:

    Captain Neurotic: 80 pints? Milquetoast! To be on the Honours Board at the Billfish Bar in Nuku’alofa you must have been seen to consume not less than 100 pints of Ikale…by God, that took some doing, especially when the Croatian brew master was having an off week…

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  10. jcuk (663 comments) says:

    Reads like good riddance to bad rubbish from all those comments and the taxpaper was paying for it all?

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  11. somewhatthoughtful (461 comments) says:

    The cook was pretty shit really, house parties were much more fun. Same goes for gardies. If Al Bar closes though, I’ll fly down to join the riot.

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  12. rolla_fxgt (311 comments) says:

    Think the DCC should create a bylaw forcing Otago Uni to buy the lease on the Cook and continue running it as a public bar.

    Would serve the uni right for shutting down The Bowler, and Gardies.

    150 years must surely give it some sort of protection as a historic place right?

    Oh and I went back to the Cook about a month ago, when I was down visiting Dunedin, it wasn’t the same as I remember. My wife told me there weren’t even toilet seats in the womens toilets anymore.

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  13. alex Masterley (1,507 comments) says:

    It was the “Gardens” you idiots. Not the fucking gardies.

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  14. Hodor (38 comments) says:

    4 year BA right here, thanks mainly to the Cook. A legendary institution.

    Alex, not sure why you are so precious about the Gardens/Gardies? I never heard anyone call it the Gardens in all the years in was in Dunedin, which was quite a few.

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  15. Honeybadger (195 comments) says:

    I spent many a happy hour at the Cook and the Gardens, those were the days, life is just not the same

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  16. V (708 comments) says:

    Well I wonder what the lease value will be now, and if anyone else will take it up.

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  17. wreck1080 (3,863 comments) says:

    The cost of failing your education far outweighs the benefits of having good nights out I guess.

    I was at waikato uni, back in the days of bike pub crawls/ the Hilly / Riv / Eastside etc.

    I think the Hilly is replaced by a police station now , the Riv is demolished, and students socialise more in town now I think.

    Probably it is a good thing students drink less though.

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  18. alex Masterley (1,507 comments) says:

    Hodor, I attended OU between 1980 & 1984. 2 degrees were the result.
    The “gardens” was the pub of choice in my last 2 years. Why don’t I like the term “Gardies”. Well it as effete woman’s nickname thought up by some Auckland trustafarian for a blokes pub.

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