New owner for Mt Somers tavern

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By Mick Jensen

There’s been a change behind the bar at the Mt Somers Tavern, with publican Max Smith departing for retirement and Bryan Carter coming in as the new owner.

While Mr Smith and his wife Sandy shift back to the Wairarapa after an eight-year stint at the helm, Mr Carter is returning to the district that he grew up in and a pub he frequented as a young fellow.

Born in Southbridge, he completed his school education in Methven.

“I remember being able to get served in the Mt Somers Tavern as a teenager, but I couldn’t get a drink in Methven because my face was too well known.”

The drinking age back then had been 21, said Mr Carter, who worked in earthmoving and transport jobs after leaving school.

He managed the Amberley Lime Company for a while and also worked for Burnett Transport in his early years.

The new tavern owner is well travelled these days and has worked and run businesses in a number of countries over the past 40 years.

“I ran an art gallery and gardens with a wife in Hawaii for a while and later a fish and chip shop on the mainland in Sequim, Washington State.

“I had a stint running a transport company in Australia and worked in heavy machinery, transport and hospitality in Papua New Guinea.”

Mr Carter said he was single these days, but had been married three times and was on the look out for staff to help him run the tavern.

He said Mt Somers was a scenic spot and the tavern business too good an opportunity to miss.

It was a fresh start and an escape from the dampness of the West Coast of New Zealand, which had not been good for his lung issues.

Mr Carter will be “a jack of all trades” and will work behind the bar and also in the kitchen.

He formally took over tavern ownership last Thursday.

He said he was very keen to improve signage advertising the location of the Mt Somers Tavern, which he saw as a friendly country pub that offered great hospitality, good food, and both on and off-licence drinks.

“There’s absolutely no signs pointing people here off the scenic highway and nothing even in the township telling people where the pub is.”

Tavern clientele was typically loyal locals, travelling New Zealanders and international travellers, he said.

Mr Carter said he was also looking at a future AirBnB option at the tavern, which could provide overflow accommodation in the township or complement what was already being offered.

Renovations and a spruce-up were also on the cards in the future, he said.