Owhango Hotel History


The Owhango Hotel was established in 1956 and below is an excerpt written by Fred & Beth Richards taken from the Owhango 'Spanning 100 Years' book published in 2004 at the centenary.

Owhango Hotel Opening Day 1956It was the first Hotel to open in the King Country, the nearest north was at Kihikihi, south at Taihape and over the old metal road to Tokaaunu.

The first publican was Reg Slater. There were nine barmen working on Fridays and Saturdays. Only two were permanent staff. There was the Public Bar, the Bottle Store and the Escort Bar.

Mrs Bunt was the first cook and Mary RIchards was assistant cook.

All vehicles had to be off the premises by 6:30 pm unless you were a registered guest. It was Fred Richards job to clear the car park, often finding it easiest to drive the cars out on to the road for patrons. Fred was seventeen years of age, working part time illegally on licensed premises. He was employed in the Bottle Store, filling flagons and keeping the beer up to the counter in kegs, cartons and crates. Saturdays were very busy filling flagons till 4 pm. There was no time after that. Beer and spirits were sold by the truckload, trucks coming from Kakahi, Raurimu, Piriaka and Taumarunui. Kaiteke bought by the boot full.

Ladies being served on opening dayIt was quite common to put the three gallons of beer into a cream can. The first time one turned up, Fred refused to fill it. The Publican asked if they had the money, and they did, so he was told to fill it up. After that he filled all cream cans. The Bottle Store till was emptied of change three times a day. All notes were thrown into a beer carton under the counter and this was emptied twice a day.

After hours the floor of the main bar was cleaned up with a cow shed broom and a square mouth shovel.

From Friday after work and all day Saturday, it was common for the queue to be four deep at the bar waiting to be served. The Pub opened at 9 am and customers were often waiting then for service.

Owhango Hotel 1986On Boxing Day 1960, Fred drove Monzy Begg's A5 Bedford to Hamilton for a load of beer. The road was not sealed then. We left Owhango at 6 am and drove the truck up a one way street the wrong way before finding the brewery. The truck was duly loaded and we returned post haste to Owhango, driving in to the car park at about 3 pm. It was a stinking hot day and as we arrived the Pub had ran out of beer, so the till was brought out and the beer was sold off the back of the truck.

It was not uncommon to receive tips which were pooled to be drunk by the staff after closing time. These often amounted to £60 or £70.

One night Fred was sitting on the bar with his beer when the Senior Sergeant from Taumarunui Police walked in. He walked right up to Fred, looked him in the eye and said, "Don't just sit there, boy, pour me a beer!" Needless to say, he did!

Fred & Beth Richards, Owhango


Grant LethborgThe current owner and publican of the Owhango Hotel is Grant Lethborg.

Grant has been an Owhango farmer and resident for many years and now manages the hotel as a family business with daughter Andrea and son Jacob. The pub prides itself as being a well established King Country pub, and as such continues to hold annual events such as 'The Roar' deerhunting competition, 'Speed Shearing' and regular rugby challenges against other local 'Golden Oldies' teams.

Grant has played and coached rugby for many years and has continued these traditions hoping to make the Owhango Hotel one of the best 'NZ Country Pubs'.