It's 11.30am on a weekday, music is blaring inside the pub and nearly every spare seat is taken with a happy punter. But by the end of next month, drinkers at a popular Rotorua bar and pokie spot will have to find somewhere else to go after plans were announced for a new development that will see their favourite watering hole demolished. Bar locals have a yarn to journalist Kelly Makiha.
Local drinkers at VC's Turf Bar on Arawa St are upset their favourite watering hole will be demolished to make way for an $80 million Māori-centric hotel in Rotorua.
The iconic pub will be pulled down, along with two other business sites on the block, to make way for the new hotel that's tipped to be a world first.
Rotomā No.1 Incorporation announced on Monday plans for the multimillion-dollar ''wood-first'' Māori commercial centre and a neighbouring 174 room four-star plus hotel.
It is expected to create up to 120 jobs and is being built on the incorporation's long-held site opposite the Rotorua Citizen's Club.
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The area, better known by locals as "the Palace", was the former site of the Palace bar. VC's Turf Bar, which is on the end of the site, has been around for several decades, although under different names.
At 11.30am yesterday the bar was pumping. Music was blaring inside and about 50 happy punters were sitting enjoying a drink, a flutter on the pokies and chats with old mates.
Barry Judd is one of the locals who said he was "gutted" about the news as he used to drink at the Palace 45 years ago when his father was the barman.
He said he drank at VC's Turf Bar "every day that ends with y" and usually arrived about 10.30am and left about 3pm.
"We all come here and meet up. I like the atmosphere, the music, the people."
Judd said the final day of drinking there on November 30 would be a sad day as he was certain it was the last original pub in Rotorua.
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Fellow patron Michael Hutchins said he was disappointed the new hotel couldn't have included a public bar for them.
"They could have made a room for us to stay here."
Scotty Roberts said there were empty buildings all over Rotorua yet VC's Turf Bar was always busy.
However, it might not be the end of the bar completely. Owner Kalvin Singh said he was hoping to open the bar elsewhere.
In the meantime, Singh said he intended to have a big farewell party that doubled as an early Christmas party.
Singh said the closing of the bar would be the end of an era, but it was something that had to be done to allow progress of the city.
"I am trying to move it somewhere else and hope is near. I don't want to lose my loyal customers because they have a lot of memories with that pub."
Along with Speedy Signs, which had already moved elsewhere, the Rotorua Secondhand Market would also look to move premises. Owner Sarah Williamson said they weren't ready to announce the new location but customers could rest assured it would not close.
The new hotel will showcase Māori hospitality, food and beverages and will reflect Māori traditions with rooms inspired by Māori heritage, motif and whakairo.
Rotomā No. 1 Incorporation was established in 1908 by the Māori Land Court and represents more than 1800 shareholders and is overseen by an elected Committee of Management.
The committee manages a diversified portfolio including 147 leased lakefront residential sections, forestry investments, commercial buildings in Rotorua and Waikato, diversified fund income and co-investments with iwi groups in kiwifruit and geothermal power.