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Shaken but not deterred . . . Sean Madden outside "The Blacksmith's" where the cafe is up and running for business, while the historic Hurunui Hotel remains closed due to earthquake damage. PHOTO AMANDA BOWES

By AMANDA BOWES

The historic Hurunui Hotel may be red stickered following the 7.8 North Canterbury earthquake, but the Blacksmiths Restaurant next door is open for business – it’s new owners undeterred.

Sean and Maryane Madden left high pressure jobs in Auckland for a saner life in the South.

Arriving in September, the two, along with their children, were excited about their new business venture, taking on a 20 year lease of the Hurunui Hotel, caravan park and the cafe next door.

With years of experience in the hospitality industry, Sean left behind a job as Business Development Manager for Collective Hospitality, while his wife was working in Tribal Development for Ngati Whatua Orakei.

Long working hours and little family time dictated a change.

They saw the Hurunui Hotel complex up for sale or lease and decided to grab the opportunity.

Two months later, having built up a rapport with locals and visitors alike, their world was shaken up side down in the early hours of Monday morning, November 14 and the Hurunui Hotel was badly damaged.

Sitting at a table outside the Blacksmiths Restaurant, on a typical warm, blue sky, sunny North Canterbury day, Sean muses over the chaos that has ensued over the past week.

Customers come in – a welcome sight and Sean heads back to the kitchen to whip up some chicken wings and curly fries.

The Blacksmiths was going to open early December, but the quakes have fast forwarded that.

“I had to do it, other wise we would be broke,” says Sean.

The cafe is open for meals, coffees and cold drinks and weekends will see the wood fired pizza oven and barbecue up and running. In a fortnight, local lamb will be roasted on a spit.

Open from 8.30am till late, Sean plans to open the original stable part at the front as a bar as soon as the license comes through.

“It was going to be a shop for the campers, but now we have no pub, it will become the bar”.

The former Hurunui Stables is a popular place for weddings and other functions and apart from the name and a new menu, nothing has changed.

Cabin accommodation is still available at the site while the hotel is out of action.

Despite the upheaval from the recent earthquake, Sean says they have no regrets about shifting to the Hurunui and their in-laws may soon follow to help out.

Looking out over the vineyard and to the hills beyond, Sean comments on the view from his “office” – “how could you not like that?”

“The important thing is that just because people see the red sticker on the hotel, it doesn’t mean the cafe is also closed.

“If you’re driving past and need a coffee break or meal, drop in.”