Nelson Leader : January 8th 2015
6 THE NELSON LEADER, JANUARY 8, 2015 FEATURE Hard work but diamond emerging The Riwaka Hotel is THE venue to see headline bands over the peak summer season. The nights of back-toback acts regularly attract thousands of punters. The Leader talks to themanat the helm, Justin Scott, who bought the lease on the hotel four years ago and is intent on making it more than a summer mosh pit. S o what did you do before you purchased the Riwaka Hotel’s lease? We spent five or six years man- aging the Torlesse Motels in Little Kaiteriteri, but I have been in hospitality since I was 13. My last job was as the executive assistant manager at the Novatel Rotorua and the Okareka Lake House Lodge,which are owned by the same people. I used to run the operations for both and we had over 250 staff. What got you into hospitality? I grew up in the Bay of Islands and just walked into it. I started washing dishes when I was 13 and later went to Christchurch and did a hotel manage- Two minutes with... ment course, which I didn’t finish. I just started working for the big hotels and progressed from there. Why the Riwaka Hotel? We lived here for five or six years before buying the lease and saw it as a rough diamond that could be shaped with hard work. It’s been a rough four years. We have the fine dining restaurant now and look after the locals in the front bar, as they should be. We offer accommodation and hope soon to open a tasting room in partnership with four local vineyards and a couple of brewers. Providing the venue for the summer bands must be hard work – how do you do it? It is getting easier because we have invested a lot in the big band area – it’s fenced and gravelled and we have some wonderful partners that work with us. The Riwaka Rugby Club do the bar – they know what they are doing and it’s a big fundraiser for them. Rotary do the car parking and provide the traffic management, again as a fundraiser. And Brooklyn School do the clean-up and sell the cans – so the events have a good community spin-off. Popular: An enthusiastic New Year’s crowd at the Riwaka Hotel’s outdoor venue watching London-based band I Am Giant in 2013. Photo: HELEN MURDOCH Our two other big partners are Henry and his team from Emac Security and the police, who keep an eye on things and help out. I think this year we had the least amount of trouble ever. We also work with Peter Camp- bell and Brent Eccles who basically come to us with the summer’s contract and we say yes or no. We have never said no – but some things work, and some things don’t. We start work about two weeks before the event and just rip into it. Country pubs and hotels are seen to be dying – what’s the secret in success? The summer bands are just the cherry on the cake. We are all about our accommodation, our restaurant and our bars and being the hotel it used to be. The secret is providing that. People today are cooking at home what they used to eat in restaurants five years ago. To get them out their door you are going to have to provide something pretty special. So you have to create an environment which is value for money and for a special occasion – offering things the way they used to be. A lot of people think running a hotel is all fun and games – but it’s not. Tell us a little about you. What do you do when you are not working 80-hour weeks? I have a lovely wife and an 18-month-old son. If I have any spare time I like to go fishing, or hunting or play cricket. I used to play rugby for Riwaka but now I have been helping manage the Kahurangi team. So – what music do you like? Probably sort of old school – AC/ DC, Guns and Roses . . . early rock.
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