The historic Napier Cosmopolitan Club late yesterday seemed to be gaining a new lease of life, albeit for just a few hours, as the members prepared for the doors to close for the last time.
About 150 people, mostly unhappy to see the end, were in the club's Sports Bar early last night, a number which seemed to surprise president John Hart, who conceded: "I had no idea what to expect".
Because of the same troubled financial circumstances that contributed to the closure, nothing had been planned as a last soiree, apart from an extended breakfast earlier in the day.
"Money's tight, and we didn't feel we could justify spending any," he said. "We would rather not be closing, to be quite honest."
The indication was that the club could observe one last part of its rare Queen's Charter, a near 24/7 licence, for no time had been set for last drinks, and one punter suggested "It'll be last man standing", oblivious to the gender-balance invoked some years ago when the club was, like most other charter clubs, for men only.
Those on hand for the last supper - chips and fish bites were still being provided - included a wide mix, many paying tribute in their own way to the family ties to the club which had gone back many years.
Mr Hart may have been comparatively junior in that respect, for while having been a member for more than 40 years, since joining at 21, there was only one generation of the family in the club before him, his father.
The club was one of the oldest in New Zealand, the first opening in Dunedin in 1874, followed three years later by the Napier Cosmopolitan Club, the Wellington Workingmen's Club and the South Wairarapa Workingmen's Club in Greytown. Of the trailblazers, only the Greytown club now remains.
For many years the Napier club was in buildings on a site now occupied by Mid-City Plaza in the Dalton St-Clive Sq precinct of Emerson St, the heyday being when there were over 600 watersiders working at the Port, seemingly hundreds of others employed by the railways, and also big numbers working within the Post Office and other government departments and civic buildings.
In 1986, the club sold the premises and relocated in what had been the Leopard Inn on Marine Parade, the Leopard Breweries flagship bar which had been a popular nightspot established after licensing law changes in 1967 ended the 6 o'clock swill and allowed bars to remain open later, initially until 10pm.
After years trying to find answers to the woes of dwindling patronage, brought about by work and social changes, the buildings were put up for sale last year, and a merger with the Taradale Club in Wharerangi Rd was confirmed earlier this year.
Many members have joined other clubs, including the nearby Napier RSA.
New owners take possession on September 28 with plans to turn the large lounges into office space.
Before they take over, an on-site auction will be held next Sunday to clear the appliances and items from two commercial kitchens, furniture from the lounges, refrigeration and air-conditioning, and sound equipment. But anyone after any of the century-old snooker tables which once dominated a large floor have missed out. They're all gone.