New life for town's old club

By Tessa Johnstone

A breath of fresh air is blowing through the Featherston Citizens and Services Club after Messines Restaurant chef Mike Topp took on the job of running the bar.

It was revealed in August the Featherston RSA was in financial difficulty, and the club on the verge of closure, but members voted to hand the bar over to Mr Topp last month in an attempt to get back on track.

Featherston RSA president Garry Thomas said the club had applied for a bank loan to pay off creditors, and now that Mr Topp has run of the bar the outlook is positive. "It's going to benefit Toppy and us a lot. It takes a bit of pressure off us, we don't have to keep an eye on things."

Mr Thomas said Mr Topp was already doing a good job and patrons were excited about the change, but he would need the whole community to support it.

Mr Topp said that after ripping up the carpet, cleaning the walls - one old World War II photo so thick with nicotine he thought it was sepia-toned - and upgrading the sound system, the next job was to drop the prices.

"We'll have the cheapest prices in the whole of Wairarapa as far as the bar goes ... they can't believe how much the prices have gone down, and a few of them are shouting each other like the old days because they can afford to."

Mr Topp took over the lease in early December, and has already seen a boost in customers - though he know he needs to get past the honeymoon period and draw in new business.

"The idea is to bring in new business, the hundreds that drive past from the railway station. The farmers and their wives and kids that love to eat out but have never had anywhere to go in Featherston."

Mr Topp said he did not want to change everything at once, and wanted to keep the "old time" feel.

Signage on the main road for the bar and restaurant will come in the new year, as well as new pokie machines and some good locally made wine.

The large function room will be become a sports room, with new pool tables coming and darts remaining, and give Featherston RSA members a space for committee business.


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