Hotel Embassy

The Hotel Embassy, situated at 165 Manchester Street, was designed by Colin Chisholm Lamb and built in 1940.

Manchester Street, 13 September 2008
165 Manchester Street. Photographer (pht): Cafe Cecil, Contributor (ctb): Cafe Cecil. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

By January 1912, Town Section 901 had been purchased by James Jamieson and William Graham Jamieson. William would still retain ownership of the property in 1929.

The Hotel Embassy was registered as a private company on 16 March 1939 with D. McFarlane and Morgan O’Brien as subscribers. The license for the hotel was formerly that of the Empire Hotel in High Street. On 31 May 1939, John Joyce, holder of the license for the Empire Hotel, applied to transfer the license to Morgan O’Brien. 

The building was designed by architect Colin Chisholm Lamb. The contractors were the firm of James and William Graham Jamieson. 
The hotel opened in August 1940.

Entrance to the hotel was from Manchester Street, with the main doors opening into a vestibule. From there, a hall led westward to the end of the building. On the southern side of the hall was a public bar which was also accessible from Manchester Street. On the northern side, was a private bar. Towards the western end of the hall were a staircase and a lift. These led to the first floor which contained a lounge and a separate lounge bar. The second floor featured a dining room, sitting room, and a kitchen. The third floor contained eleven bedrooms while the fourth floor contained twelve bedrooms.

On 3 June 1941, O’Brien applied to transfer the license to Victor Camden Constant. In June 1945, the license was transferred to William Ewart Donnithorne. In 1949, the license was transferred to Ernest Charles Constant who died while residing at the hotel on 27 December 1951. On 5 April 1952, his wife, Emma Sara Constant applied to transfer the license to Stuart Ernest Lindsay McLean. On 4 March 1953, McLean applied to transfer the license back to Emma Sarah Constant. She reapplied for the license in 1956 before transferring it to Herbert George Harris in March 1957.

In September 1957, the license was transferred from Herbert George Harris to Edgar Thomas Furlong. On 19 December 1957, Furlong applied to transfer the license to William Patrick Burke. Burke applied to transfer the license to Patrick Attwood Smith on 18 September 1959.

In 1961, the hotel was extended into the adjoining building to the south at 163 Manchester Street. The lounge on the first floor of the hotel was joined, via a set of steps, with the first floor of 163 Manchester Street to become a split level dining room. Stairs, accessed from the third floor of the hotel, led down to the second floor of 163 Manchester Street which had been converted into four bedrooms to provide further accommodation. In that year, the hotel was also granted a license allowing it to serve alcohol with meals until 11.30pm and to allow for dancing until midnight. By April 1962, Checkers Restaurant and Cabaret had opened on the first floor as part of the Embassy Hotel.

The property was purchased in 1964 by the Canterbury Building Society. By 1969, Peter Vinson Smith, the son of Patrick, was the proprietor. However, in 1970, William Albert Whitehead was the manager. 

On 17 February 1974, a 50 year old man fell to his death from the third floor. On 1 April 1975, Ronald Raymond Gardiner purchased the lease of the hotel with R. Roberts.

By the 1970s, the hotel had earned a reputation for attracting rough patronage and the police would often raid Checkers. Along with a decline in guests staying at the hotel, the cost of maintenance was high. On 17 March 1977, Gardiner was declared bankrupt.

In early 1978, Checkers (then also known as Bumps Nightspot) was closed due to there being no permit for the club to trade as a restaurant. However, it appeared to be operating again by April, when a fire broke out in one of the ground floor bars of the hotel. In May 1979, the police applied to remove the licence of John H. Booth, the licensee of the Embassy Hotel. The hotel closed on 22 June 1979.

Having resumed full control of the building, the Canterbury Building Society aimed to redevelop the property. After a fire in 1980, the building underwent renovation in 1981 which was carried out by Capon Construction. The second, third floor, and fourth floors were converted into office space for the Canterbury Building Society. Accommodation facilities were also provided for staff visiting the building from branch locations. 

The ground floor and first floor were renovated to become a hairdressing salon and training facility for Paul Davis. By 1988, Paul Davis was in liquidation. 

In 2008, the building became the back of house for the Holiday Inn hotel situated at 170 Cashel Street.

The building was damaged in the February 2011 earthquake and subsequently demolished.