A landmark Waikato tavern is to be demolished to make way for a shopping centre, but not before one last knees-up for the Rugby World Cup final.

The Cambridge Tavern in the suburb of Leamington will close its doors for good after Sunday's final between the All Blacks and France, ending 35 years of serving the thirsty.

But nostalgic patrons and bargain hunters can get their hands on memorabilia and chattels from the tavern in an auction of its contents the following Sunday.

Tavern manager Connie Graham said she expected a big crowd for the last day, especially as it coincided with the World Cup final.


"All we need is to win," Mrs Graham said.

"I'm going to miss the place. But I'm going to have a long holiday."

Mrs Graham has managed the tavern, known locally as the Leamington Tavern, for the past seven years.

She began working there as a cleaner a couple of years after it opened, in 1976.

Up to 100 past and present staff had a reunion at the tavern in September though the list of former staff added up to 170.

Mrs Graham said that in the tavern's heyday bar staff would keep buckets under the tills and when one was full the money would be scooped out and into a bucket because staff were so busy serving patrons.

But she said people now had a wider choice of cafes and bars in Cambridge, and patronage had declined over the years.

One of the former tavern owners, Jean Wills - who was then Jean Hercock - took over the pub with business partner John Lambie, renaming it after they movedfrom the Central Hotel in the town's main street.

"It was a great place. Everybody loved it and it's very sad to see it close."

Demolition of the tavern will begin on November 3 - a bottle store on the site has already been pulled down - making way for a two-stage shopping complex which will include a restaurant, cafe, supermarket, sports tavern and up to eight shops.