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Obituary: The Evergreen, remembered

Mon 14 Mar 2005 In: Community

The Evergreen coffee bar was started by Carmen in a time long long ago when homosexuality was illegal and civil unions were something one may have thought up for a gay comic strip if such a thing could have been published in this country at that time. Carmen's Coffee bar made way for the Salvation Army Citadel in Vivian Street and Carmen ran the Evergreen premises for a short time. Chrissie Witoko took over the business when Carmen emigrated to Australia around 1975 and renamed it Evergreen. Chrissie ran the coffee bar for over twenty five years and catered to the people of the night, the disenfranchised, and the lonely, not to mention the numerous celebrities major and minor who frequented the establishment. It was not unusual to find visiting film stars rubbing shoulders with polititians, gang members, schizophrenics, hookers, and draq queens, and of course her beloved gay community. Like all good things the Evergreen had it's time and it's day and closed a few months after Chrissie Witoko died of complications from her dialysis and kidney failure. The building has been empty for some time and was due for demolition. R.I.P. Evergreen, you will go down in the annals of NZ gay history. - Jacquie Grant. Editor's note: Compiling even a simple history of the Evergreen has been tricky, with many folks having differing recollections of time, place, people, etc. "Karen" emailed us with the following: "Carmen [opened] the coffee bar called Burnt Offerings. When she left to go to Australia she sold the business to her niece, Sharlene, who operated it for a year or so. It was then sold to a couple called Spooky and George who renamed it as the Owl's Retreat. [They] also ran it for about a year. It was then sold to Chrissy Witoko who, after major renovations, opened it as the Evergreen Coffee House" Thanks Karen. If anyone else has experiences of the Evergreen you'd like to share, contact us using the link below. Our readers would love to hear from you!     Jacquie Grant - 14th March 2005

Credit: Jacquie Grant

First published: Monday, 14th March 2005 - 12:00pm

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