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Kings of the Castlepoint Hotel

The Castlepoint Hotel – otherwise known as The Whakataki – will be officially reopening in time for Labour Weekend.

For the iconic country pub’s new owners – Jason ‘Grover’ Le Grove, Jason Osborne, and Ash Thomas – it will be the culmination of a long-held ambition.

“It’s every Kiwi bloke’s dream to either play for the All Blacks or own a pub. I was holding out until last year for being called up to the squad, so this is the next best thing,” said a deadpanned Osborne, to the merriment of his partners.

The news that the business was being put up for sale last December by previous owner Raewyn Voice immediately piqued the interest of Thomas, who did a bit of research and then got in touch with Osborne.

“All I did was text ‘Whakataki’, and he immediately replied, ‘I’m in’,” Thomas laughed.

After a chat over a pint with Osborne shortly thereafter, Le Grove was on board too.

The threesome’s attitude to their new venture is that “it’s an investment we also want to have fun with”, Le Grove said.

“Too many of the old country pubs die, so we want to get it up and running again for the locals,” Thomas said, while “also making it a destination”, Osborne added.

Currently, Castlepoint attracts around 40,000 visitors a year, a figure the freshly-minted hoteliers want to build on.

As well as plugging into existing local activities like the 33km Rahui Coastal Loop e-bike trek and the annual Castlepoint Beach Races, the hotel will be putting on regular music events – the official opening night will feature “ultimate one man band” Jason Ireland playing an eclectic range of covers – and other “fairly regular entertainment” like a backyard cricket competition.

There’s a desire to “reinvigorate the hotel a bit” but the plan is to take a slow and steady approach.

“We’ve got a few ideas, some subtle changes we’re thinking about but we’re going to get our feet under the table first, and see what the demand is like,” Osborne said.

The menu – which will be presided over by new head chef Devon Wilmshurst, stepping up from his sous chef role at Masterton’s Saint Sebastian restaurant – will largely stick to “classic country pub” offerings like fish and chips, burgers, steaks, and stonking Sunday lunches [Yorkshire pudding, roast beef, pork] but also broaden to include some slightly more exotic Asian dishes.

The pub will “pretty much” remain a DB preserve but with the addition “a couple of craft beers because there’s such different clientele – you’ve got the locals during the week, the bach owners who come over on the Friday night, and then you’ve got tourists over the weekend,” Thomas said.

The establishment as a whole will be managed by Jeff Kay, who’s “been in the game” for 30 years and is currently running Pahiatua’s Post Office Hotel.

While some staff will be put up on-site due to a lack of local accommodation, there’s still room for 26 overnight guests in the hotel, plus registration for a campsite is currently underway so the hotel can take any overflow from the Castlepoint campsite.

One mild cause for concern is the current state of the road, thanks to the battering it’s taken from recent weather bombs, but Thomas expressed his optimistic faith in the council sorting out the heavily pitted surface before the summer tourism season kicks off.

Although October 21 marks the official opening, the new owners mention – just quietly – that the hotel will be soft launching on October 12.

“That gives us a week’s practice runup to iron out any creases ready for Labour Weekend,” Thomas said.

“So, from October 12, if you’re driving past, drop in for a pint – we’d love to see you.”

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