Patrons at The Celtic will be forgiven for thinking they are back in the early 1990s when the Palmerston North bar this week celebrates a double decade in business.
The Regent Arcade bar was opened 20 years ago by publican Neil McIntosh and the late Jock McKenzie making it the bar with the longest single ownership in the city.
To celebrate its birthday on Friday, The Celtic will sell Guinness at the same price as on the bar’s opening night, though Mr McIntosh said he would not reveal the price until then.
It was during a trip to Ireland that Mr McIntosh came up with the idea to build his own pub.
“I went over to Ireland and saw these little bars and thought: ‘I could do something like that in Palmerston North’. We thought it was the way into the future.”
With the help of friends and family, the two men converted four empty shops in the alleyway into the bar.
“Obviously with our Scottish heritage we were a bit frightened to go the Scottish way because a lot of people are turned off by bagpipes.
“We thought being a Celtic pub it took in the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish … but also some of the French. That’s the reason we called it The Celtic, so we weren’t leaving anyone out in the cold.”
The secret to the bar’s success was stability and friendliness, he said.
“We’ve never changed. We’ve set up a theme and we’ve stuck to it right the way through. We haven’t run off and had to do poker machines or karaoke.
“We like a safe environment, no hassles, and friendliness is the number one thing. We try to get everyone to enjoy themselves.”
People from all walks of life patronised the central city bar, with most popping in after work for a pint, he said.
“Some work round the area but a lot of them do travel to the pub from places like Massey, and from all walks of life.
“I think it comes down to a comradeship. They weren’t friends initially but they’ve all become friends and look for one another’s company.”
Another point of pride for Mr McIntosh was that he had never failed an under-age liquor sting.
“We’ve never had a conviction, but I always touch wood when I say that.”
At the age of 61, Mr McIntosh has given some thought to hanging up his apron.
“We are hoping that one of the boys will keep it in the family and operate it. It is hard work. My oldest boy did 12 years running bars in Ireland so he knows how they work. So he may take it over from me in the family name.”
The celebrations will also feature pipe band music, a haggis ceremony and performances from Bull Frog Rata and Dirt Box Charlie.