The land and buildings housing one of the grandest country pubs in the Waikato – featuring a 136-year-old Category 1 listed venue – have been placed on the market for sale.
The historic Grand Tavern in Te Aroha traces its roots back to the late 1800s, and is described by the Historic Places Trust, now known as Heritage New Zealand, as reflecting the town’s fortunes over more than a century.
Records show the pub was built in 1881 shortly after the discovery of gold in the nearby Waiorongomai Valley to provide accommodation for miners. Four years later after the short-lived gold rush boom had subsided, the property was enlarged to take advantage of its location next to the geothermal hot springs in Te Aroha Domain which were quickly become a tourist magnet.
The springs drew thousands of tourists from across the Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions, and in 1902 the two-storey wooden pub was renamed the Grand hotel.
With the demolition of the Hot Springs Hotel, in 1971, the Grand Tavern is now Te Aroha’s only surviving hotel from those gold mining and thermal spa boom periods.
Heritage New Zealand’s background notes on the Grand Tavern outline its historical importance to the town…… "It is particularly significant as part of a larger historic and archaeological landscape, which includes the extensive historic area at Te Aroha Domain.
“Te Aroha was the first geothermal resort in New Zealand to benefit from large-scale tourism for leisure and health, being overtaken by the more famous spa at Rotorua only at the turn of the century.
"The hotel retains strong townscape value for its position along the street front, and makes a significant aesthetic contribution through its long balcony and verandah.
“The Grand Tavern is of historical and architectural significance for demonstrating changes in the use of hotels during the late nineteenth century, from work-related lodgings to genteel places of retreat,” state the Heritage New Zealand records.
“It is a notable example of Victorian hotel design in New Zealand, with characteristics typical of the building-type such as a sweeping verandah, hipped roof and street corner location.
Now the majestic Grand Tavern land and buildings at 81 – 83 Whittaker Street, Te Aroha’s main road through town, are being marketed for sale by tender through Bayleys, with tenders closing at 4pm on September 14.
Bayleys Hamilton salesperson Josh Smith said the Grand Tavern still retained the verandah and ornate wooden fretwork which made it so popular more than a century ago, while the venue’s food and beverage operations were popular with town’s locals. The building’s current owners – passionate about New Zealand’s heritage - had spent $100,000 on restoration and refurbishment work over recent years.
“While many classic kiwi country pubs have suffered at the hands of time and are now tired reflections of their past glories, the Grand Tavern has remained a pillar of Te Aroha’s central business district,” Mr Smith said.
The Grand Tavern’s 980 square metre building sits on some 1,172 square metres of freehold land on a corner site. The property currently generates net rental of $69,000 + GST from the pub’s food, beverage and accommodation business.
The tavern’s operator is currently on a lease expiring in April next year with a further 10-year right of renewal.
Mr Smith said that it was ironic that some 110 years after Te Aroha first become renown as a tourist destination off the back of a rail connection from Auckland, the town was currently undergoing it’s second re-incarnation as a tourism destination.
“The opening of the Hauraki Rail Trail in 2012 has seen dozens of associated businesses in the region prosper – particularly those in the food and beverage and accommodation sectors,” Mr Smith said
“Te Aroha is directly on the Matamata to Paeroa axis of the trail, and as a result the town is benefitting from cyclists coming in to use the mineral pools. The Grand Tavern, by its very location and what it offers to cyclists, has piggy-backed off that rise in visitor numbers.
“In addition, the Hauraki Rail Trail Charitable Trust is confident that the route will be extended even further - with the Te Aroha to Matamata leg expected to be operational within two years.
“The Grand Tavern land and buildings represent the opportunity for either an investor to buy the premises and maintain the current tenancy, or for a hospitality-focused owner-occupier to take on the premises lock-stock-and barrel and expand the current range and standard of offerings.”