Musician rescues Galatos

By Denise Montgomery

While most 70-year-olds are starting to kick back and enjoy their golden years, jazz and blues aficionado Dean Whaitiri is ready to rock'n' roll.

<inline type="photogallery" id="11285" align="outside" embed="no" />A few months ago the Takapuna resident spotted a NZ Herald article about Galatos, the iconic Newton music venue, being for sale.

The historic building is 100 years old this year and its walls have reverberated to the sounds of the Foo Fighters, Coldplay and the Stereophonics, plus many local bands launching their careers.

Mr Whaitiri had been wanting to buy a live music venue for a decade - and Galatos fitted the bill.

"I didn't want one of those glitzy places like in Parnell. I wanted somewhere where live bands could play ... the old style of rock, and tribute bands. I like this place, it's got character. It's something different and it has the right feel for real bands to play in."

He had been "driving real estate agents nuts" looking for the perfect place. He's still a real estate agent, so he knows his demands were a bit of a challenge.

They revolved around a venue having the right feel. And he should know: he's played sax in hundreds of bands over the years, including Sir Howard Morrison's group.

"I know how musicians think and I know they will love this place," he says.

He'll be fussy about the performers he allows to grace Galatos.

"If they play here they have to sound as good or better than the original band," he says. He's already lined up Tom Sharplin and a Pink Floyd tribute band.

Ultimately, he'd love to hear from a younger generation that's into performing classic rock.

Mr Whaitiri took possession last Friday. He and his partner of 40 years, Andrea Clark, will run the venue and are setting up a website.

They've had inquiries from TV productions keen to use the space: Galatos has two levels and a mezzanine floor and can hold a crowd of 500, or fewer in the separate spaces. There are three bars with leather booths and sofa rooms, and the venue has a 24-hour, 365-day liquor licence.

But isn't it a risky business to be getting into?

"My friends all think I am crazy, but I think there is a gap in the market for a place where old-fashioned rock'n' roll is played," he says.

Mr Whaitiri says he got into a bidding war with a developer who he believes was going to knock down Galatos or turn it into apartments. He couldn't bear that to happen.

Galatos was originally the lodge for the United Ancient Order of Druids. In later years it was a dance hall and function centre. Its native timber parquet floor was said by patrons of Auckland's ballroom dancing clubs to be "the fastest". It was also owned and used by a Cosmopolitan Club, then became a live music venue in 1999.

He says his children, 28-year-old son Waka and 29-year-old daughter Maia, aren't too concerned about him spending their inheritance.

"They're all good with it. I sold off something else, so they're happy with it. But they aren't into my music. They're all into that hip-hop."

The next few weeks will be spent cleaning up for the first gig, hopefully at Easter.


Do you have fond memories of gigs at Galatos? Share them in the coment box below, or on our facebook page.

- The Aucklander

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