New owner secures historic pub’s future

The new owner of the historic Warners Hotel in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square says he has secured the future of the pub and the adjacent site.

Property investor and developer Gordon Chamberlain’s contract to buy the freehold interest in Warners went unconditional a few weeks ago and last week he also revealed plans for a 155-room Novotel hotel to be built on the vacant adjacent site.

The value of the freehold is believed to be about $9 million and the value of the hotel business about $9.5 million. Publican Mr O’Keefe will continue to operate the hotel in the meantime. Once the new adjacent building is completed, the accommodation in the old Warners building may also come under the same Novotel management.

The vacant site was formerly the Savoy Theatre. Mr Chamberlain’s development will see a new historic façade built that will fit in style with the Warners building and a 14-level tower will be built at the rear of the property.

The first Warners Hotel was built on the site in 1863 but has undergone a number of transformations since that time. Much of the current building dates from the 1920s. The building came close to demolition under former owner Angus Macfarlane in 2000 before Mr O’Keefe and investment partners purchased it.

“It was five minutes away from demolition and it was a complex negotiation. Now this latest deal will see Warners celebrate its 200th birthday,” Mr O’Keefe said.

In 2002, his efforts to upgrade the building were assisted by a $750,000 city council grant to repair parts of the building and refitting accommodation rooms that are now “close to a four and a half star level,” he said. He is continuing with other upgrading of the ground floor bars.

Mr Chamberlain also has a penchant for owning other heritage buildings in Cathedral Square. But he has proved adept at negotiating with international hotel chain Accor (owner of the Novotel brand). He is also developing a 23-level Ibis brand hotel for Accor in Hereford St behind the Telecom building. It should be complete next year. He said it was pleasing that such an important building in the city’s heritage fabric had been saved and restored.

The sale of Warners was brokered by Peter Sullivan of South Island Business Brokers who also recently brokered a deal to sell the leases on the Sticky Fingers bar in Oxford Tce and the Fox & Ferret outlets at The Palms and Riccarton Shopping Centres to Auckland-based Frenzi Group (Frenzi operates seven bars in Auckland, Nelson and Queenstown).

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