Wednesday 14 September 2005

Lebanese Hotel Keepers Over the Years

This was usually the profession of Irish Catholics when we were growing up in Otago Southland but things were to change quite a lot. Fred Ferris was the first to have a hotel. It was in Glenavy, just out of Oamaru. There were no hotels in Oamaru it being 'dry' so Glenavy proved a goldmine for Fred. He went on to have hotels in Kurow, Lumsden and finally, the Criterion Hotel in Dunedin. Today, his son, Paul, has the Waterloo Hotel.

Then onto the scene came Fred Lahood in partnership with his brother, Jack. They took over Chicks Hotel in Port Chalmers. Ships from overseas used to dock for a week or two and it was very busy because of the popularity of Fred and his wife Shirley, who were outstanding hosts. However, with containerisation at the port, those halcyon days have passed.
For a short time, my sister Shirley and her husband Clark Evans, owned the Careys Bay Hotel and installed a manager.

Then Bert George purchased The Prince of Wales and Tommy and Pauline Farry took over Wains Hotel upgrading it to Dunedin's most prestigious establishment. They (and other members of the Farry family) then built and ran The Gardens Tavern and followed this with The Down Town Tavern.

Gabriel Barbara had the Victoria Hotel in St Andrew Street and many years later, my cousin, Peter Coory managed the Gresham Hotel for Dominion Breweries. So it was that our people became noticed in the hotel industry, especially in Dunedin.

One amusing episode occurred when Peter Coory was running the Gresham. A disturbance took place in the bar and Peter was forced to evict a few Pacific Islanders for causing trouble. There happened to be a couple of ODT reporters drinking in the bar at the time. Their office was only a few steps away across the grass of the Queens Gardens and it was the staff 'watering hole'. Next day, low and behold, there was an article in the newspaper about racism rearing its ugly head at the Gresham Hotel! When the Sergeant of Police called around to see Peter about the incident Peter told him, 'How can they accuse me of that? I have a Greek barman, a Maori housekeeper, the chef's Dutch, I'm Lebanese and I even have a coloured TV!' The cop laughed and that was the end of that


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