The Blog

Press Release – The Vic Mac’s Brewbar

Nelson | Tuesday, 19 August 2008
by MARTIN DE RUYTER/Nelson Mail

AT YOUR SERVICE: Roger Colville behind the pumps at the new Macs Brew Bar in Trafalgar St
Old lady scrubs up for new life

One of the grandest ladies of Nelson’s pub scene re-opens tomorrow as the South Island’s first Macs Brew Bar. Sally Kidson talks to the new owners at the Victorian Rose.

Sophistication and style are not words that are usually chosen to describe many of Nelson’s pubs, but that’s what the new owners of the Victoria Rose are promising to serve up.

Mike Thomas and Paul Davenhill, who co-own Smugglers Pub in Tahunanui, and hospitality business newcomer Roger Colville have spent the past six weeks gutting the historic building and giving the old lady a face lift for her next incarnation as a Macs Brew Bar.

The Vic Brew Bar is scheduled to open Wednesday at 4pm and the men are promising big changes from the Vic Rose of old. It is the first Macs Brew Bar in the South Island.

Thomas says the men bought the pub from Queenstown-based Frenzi Group Ltd, which owns a chain of pubs around the country.

Thomas – who owned the pub until five years ago – is too diplomatic to say why they think the drinking establishment lost a lot of its shine with Nelson locals, but says it is good the pub is back in the hands of “locals”. He also won’t say how much he spent buying the pub back, only that the “price was right”.

The day the Nelson Mail visited, the pub was part-way through its transformation into the new bar. A big Mac’s mural is being painted on one of the walls. But the beer taps are working and the first beers sit untouched on the bar.

The men say that since buying the pub and overseeing its whirlwind transformation, they’ve talked widely to people about what they liked about the Victorian Rose and what they thought should go.

One thing they consistently heard was that people didn’t like the noise. To overcome that, an acoustic “baffle” has been installed over the dance floor, disguised by decorative lighting.

They’ve also aligned the pub with the Nelson Jazz Club and will feature blues and jazz on Tuesday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.

They also kept hearing that female patrons were not too happy with the old toilets, so are promising a revamp of the facilities.

Macs marketing manager Kerry Wheeler says the aim was to create a heart and home for Macs in Nelson – a goal that seems ironic, considering the brand’s owner, Lion Nathan, announced earlier this year that it was shifting the last of the Macs brewing operations from their original home in Nelson to Auckland.

The refit design was done by creative agency Shine and Kirsty Mitchell, of Veneer Design. The bar will be divided into several different areas, with a new, longer bar with a polished concrete top and a macrocarpa front.

“We’ve pretty much opened the place up and made it a bit more friendly for people to get near the bar,” Thomas says. Chandeliers, Persian rugs and a large ornamental fire and a “knitted stag’s head” will also feature.

The men say they have “behaved ourselves with the historic society”, so all the old features like fireplaces and panelling remain, but they may be disguised under a new shade of paint.

Thomas and Colville don’t want to give too much away about the food prior to opening. They do say that table service will be introduced, and the traditional Victorian Rose roasts are off the menu.

“I think it’s going to have the wow factor and be colourful and vibrant and a nice relaxed atmosphere. I think the people are really going to go for it,” Thomas says of the pub.

“I don’t want to be too forward, but I think Nelson’s ready for it.”