The Cannons Creek Tavern days
Aporo Joyce knows why the Cannons Creek Tavern was nicknamed The Flying Jug, but he also recalls an establishment full of characters and good people.
The Cannons Creek community constable from 1981 to 1993, Joyce was around when the tavern, in Bedford St, was in its heyday.
The Cannons Creek Tavern – also known as the Top Tavern – opened in December 1965, with six bars and a bottle store. It is where Freedom House is today, next to Ora Toa Medical Centre.
The 1965 photo shows bare land around it – Porirua College was built three years later on the hills in the distance.
Joyce said he had to work hard to get onside with local residents.
‘‘It was an area of hardworking people and you had to earn their trust,’’ he said. ‘‘It [the tavern] was well-established when I arrived, with a huge clientele of Ministry of Works and Todd Motors workers. It could get rough, but if you had empathy with people and they accepted you, it was fine.’’
The Flying Jug moniker was well-earned, Joyce said, with fights ‘‘reasonably’’ common. But it was no worse than the Blue Heron or Bottom Tavern downtown – he said there was a classic tale of a man thrown out of the Bottom Tavern returning with a chainsaw and making himself a new door.
Joyce said one night at the Top Tavern he was facing an enraged and drunk patron who wasn’t a Creek resident. A group of men stepped in and said, ‘‘Leave our policeman alone. If anyone’s going to punch him, it’ll be one of us.’’
John Burke, former Porirua mayor and head of Porirua Licensing Trust, said in its early days the bar had high dress standards, was considered the place for a nice night out, and was the trust’s best-performing facility.
‘‘It really was the centre of Cannons Creek,’’ he said. ‘‘There were raffles, Polynesia by Night dances, talent quests, the Porirua Sports Awards – it always seemed to be full.’’
Burke said as attitudes towards drinking and drink driving got tougher in the 1990s, the tavern’s popularity dwindled.
One incident gave the tavern unwanted notoriety in 1990. On November 3, 40-year-old tavern employee Brian Richards was shot in the face and chest as he took a break outside. He died three days later.
Tensions had mounted after a fight between tavern staff and patrons a few days earlier.
Four Mongrel Mob members were eventually acquitted of murder.
When we posted the tavern photo on our Facebook page, it induced massive feedback.
Tony Henderson-Clark said he taught himself to drive in the tavern car park and it was common for children to be waiting in the car while their parents had a drink.
Nicola Heveldt Frey said her grandparents used to go to both Porirua taverns regularly. ‘‘[My dad] said you could leave your money on the table, go to the toilet and it would be there when you got back,’’ she said.
Don Mackay said ‘‘very, very loud bells and sirens’’ would hail closing time and Merlene Chambers said it was ‘‘ a melting pot of nationalities and aspirations’’.
After the tavern closed in 1999, Porirua Licensing Trust sold the building to Freedom Church. He Huarahi Tamaraki (the teenage mothers’ school) was the tenant for a time, and the Cannons Creek Community Boxing Academy is upstairs.
The back of this 1965 photograph of the Cannons Creek Tavern reads: ‘‘The Porirua Licensing Trust’s first permanent tavern featured two brands of beer on tap and 100 per cent seating in most of the six bars.’’