Future uncertain for Cri Bar in Napier



A bar which rose from the ashes to turn inner Napier nightlife on its ear after a major fire in 1991 has been shut down with confusion over whether or when it will reopen.

Sources have told Hawke's Bay Today the landlord of the Cri Bar and Grill had ordered locks to be changed in the bar, and on the associated Criterion Art Deco Backpackers accommodation, which was still operating last night.

The changing of the locks would indicate an end to the lease, a source said. From the closed Market St bar entrance, food could be seen still in displays at the bar servery, with the doors to the establishment having been closed at least two days.

Upstairs, manager Martin Beddoes was not prepared to comment on the situation and the landlord was unable to be contacted for comment.

The bar and lodge are part of the Criterion Hotel, Napier's largest Spanish Mission-Art Deco building, a post-earthquake luxury hotel built in 1932.

It had a heyday in the 1960s when accommodating Hawke's Bay's Ranfurly Shield rugby stars, with memorable scenes of players watching from the balcony as thousands watched the Saturday morning parades in the street below.

Having fallen on financial hard-times in the 1980s, it was bought by then-emerging entrepreneurial businessman Jeremy Bayliss.

Proprietor at the time of the late-night weekend fire, his intentions were clear before the ashes stopped smouldering by hosting regulars in weekly gatherings among the ruins.

The gutted interior of the two-storey building was rebuilt ushering the bar and cafe era.

It led an inner-city bar trade which boomed as a new bar quarter became established in the nearby northern end of Hastings St.

Di and Brian Gilhooly took up the lease in 1992 and enjoyed the height of its new era as Mr Bayliss became involved in establishing another market-leading bar in West Quay, Ahuriri.

Mrs Gilhooly, whose husband's death led to the relinquishing of the premises in 1994 after a year continuing the operation, said last night she was saddened to hear of its apparent latest demise.

With memories of booming times - "when it was really going well with a lot of support from sports groups" - she said she appreciated changing times making life tough for those in the industry.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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