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New dawn at historic hotel

John Richards and Theo Wijnsma – the new team at the Royal Hotel in Featherston. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

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A Featherston landmark will soon become a key destination in its own right if the new owners have anything to do with it.

At the gateway to Wairarapa and one of the first buildings after the Remutakas, catching sight of the Royal Hotel in Revans St for most means the journey is almost over.

Now, the new team at the refurbished old lady plans for the gleaming new wooden bar to become the leaner of choice for both residents and visitors.

John Richards and Theo Wijnsma, owners of popular Featherston eatery Brac and Bow, jumped at the chance to take over the hotel and relocated the restaurant into the imposing wooden building.

The hotel and restaurant complex opened under its new management with a low-key function in January.

“It’s been going really well,” Richards said of the first few weeks.

“Crazy hectic, but really good,” he said, describing the summer rush as people flocked to the new venue.

“We’ve had local support from the get-go, and it’s been building on that.

“Featherston is a place where you can reset your compass,” Richards said.

“You can then make your way around the Wairarapa region from one place.”

Born and bred in the town, he moved home from Wellington in 2017 and established restaurant Brac and Bow with partner Wijnsma.

Richards described taking over the hotel as a growth opportunity.

“When we moved over here in 2017 it was a derelict building. It was all boarded up.

“We had a vision of how nice it would be one day to take it over,” he said.

So, when the opportunity presented, they snapped it up.

“The bones here were really good,” Richards said.

“There had been an amazing renovation.”

Richards and Wijnsma have added finishing decorative touches and crucially the new wooden bar, in pride of place in the restaurant.

“We added the flair to make it a homely place where people would feel welcome.”

Richards and Wijnsma feel positive about the future.

“We are overwhelmed by the support we’ve had. We have kept the same staff and we’re expanding,” Richards said.

“Featherston growth will be huge, and I think Wairarapa is continually growing.”

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