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OLD FAMILY: The Family Hotel from from the early 1900s. Note the maids on the balcony, the horse and cart and the beer barrels to the right.   

Photo from Yvette Elliston


The Family Hotel is closed, but it won’t be for long.

The historic hotel on Main Street is for sale and closed under the Covid-19 lockdown. The shuttered doors and lack of activity at the hotel’s Stag Café have sparked rumours of a permanent closure.

However, Harcourts real estate agent Tony McEwan says a new lease was signed last week with business people experienced in hospitality and hotel operations, meaning a reopening is imminent.

Stag Café at the old hotel is also likely to reopen – having been closed since March 26. If the new hotel lessees are not interested, Tony says there’s interest from other parties keen to operate the café.

The hotel has a rateable value of $850,000. It’s a figure Tony says is close to the mark.

“There’s been quite of bit of interest in it, and I think we’ll get near that figure,” Tony says. “It returns about 9.5 percent, so that’s pretty good value.”

The Harcourts website says the Family is an “iconic landmark building in central Ōtaki on a high profile corner site and would make a solid investment as the town grows”.

The Family is one of the last three of Ōtaki’s five modern-era hotels (others have long gone). The Jubilee, built in 1890 on Waerenga Road was demolished last year, and the Central Hotel, built in 1893 (where Sunlong is now) was destroyed by fire in 1961. The Telegraph Hotel was built in 1875, the Family in 1881 (according the KCDC Heritage Register, though other accounts put the date at 1883), and the Railway Hotel in 1891.

The Cycopedia of New Zealand in 1897 said the hotel had 28 rooms in total, including 19 bedrooms and five sitting rooms “two of which are set apart for the use of ladies and families”, and two dining rooms that could seat up to 50 guests. A “fine piano” was in one of the sitting rooms upstairs and another in one of the parlours below.

The back of the hotel had large stables comprising 10 stalls and nine loose boxes “specially constructed for the use of the racing fraternity who frequent this house in large numbers at the time of the several race meetings”.

Meantime, Brenda Christison, who formerly ran the hotel and the Stag Café, is doing some catering at the Railway Hotel. The Railway and the Family are both currently owned by Mario .

“We’ll be starting a regular steak night soon,” Brenda says. “We were doing it at the Family, so we’ll do it now here at the Railway on a Thursday night, and there’ll possibly be some new stuff to come.”

Running another hotel café is not on the cards for Brenda. She oversaw the establishment of the Family’s Stag Café and says she found the dual roles of café manager and hotel publican too much.

“I was essentially running two businesses. I was driving myself into the ground.”

Having been in lockdown for a few weeks, she also found time to reassess what was important in her life, including her own health and well-being.

A big motivation for change is the impending birth of a new grandson in Australia.

“I want to spend more time with family. I think a lot of people decided to do that after the lockdown.”

Changes coming as Family Hotel lease signed



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