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.’’

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