Captain Cook Runs Aground,  Is Eaten by Savages

Captain Cook Runs Aground, Is Eaten by Savages

Hold back the tears everyone – the Captain Cook Tavern will have its doors shut throughout Re-O-Week and potentially for good, although the owners are still looking to have someone take over the lease.

Dominion Breweries and James Arnott, one of the owners of the Cook, are no longer interested in continuing the lease as the bar has made a continual loss for years. To anyone who has spent sober time there this year, the shortage of funds is obvious: broken concrete dance floors, fewer staff, seatless (and toilet paper-less) toilets, and the persistent tendency to “run out” of aioli for the four dollar meals are all testament to the fact.

In a disastrous 3 News interview, OUSA President Francisco Hernandez agreed that “it’s a bit like a toilet – you need to just bowl it and start again,” despite having earlier stated the importance of the establishment remaining open. This was met with laughter from interviewer Rachel Smalley. The George W. Bush-like fuck-up could, however, be put down to a hearing problem, as evidenced by his earlier response: “and as for your second question, I think … wait, what was your second question again?”

Despite this, Hernandez told Critic he shares the sadness of many students at the loss of a “treasured scarfie institution.” OUSA, however, has no intention of buying the Cook. Rumours have emerged that the University offered $3 million for a 200,000-year lease, but received a counter offer of $6 million, which was not met.

The Cook has been a much-loved Scarfie bar since 1860 and has outlived other favourites such as Gardies and the Bowler. The closure of the Cook leaves only Starters Bar and Re:Fuel as the true student holes. Baa Bar is also starting to gain a larger student crowd due to the shortage of drinking venues in North Dunedin.

Recent changes in the drinking culture of students is the likely cause of bar closures, both here and abroad. Students “pre-loading” means bars are experiencing dramatic decreases in income and cannot compete with off-license and supermarket prices.

The Cook’s final night (14 June) welcomed in excess of 600 patrons, from freshers to pensioners. Those with affectionate memories of the bar started showing up from midday.

Even the late former owner Phil Ruston was on hand, his granddaughters Nik Watts (née Ruston) and Sarah Ruston bringing along a large photo of him dressed as Captain Cook. The Cook was a special place for them because of the family connections, Ms Watts said.

According to the Otago Daily Times, “[Ms Watts] was conceived here,” a detail Critic appreciates. Some things never change as far as antics at the Cook go. We wonder how many more babies were conceived in the classy tavern we all know and love.

For now it is goodbye, but the future of the Cook remains uncertain. If you can’t hold back the tears at the thought of Re-O without the Cook, go and drown your sorrows elsewhere – if only to prevent further closures.
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Josie Cochrane.