It’s been an eventful 21 years for The World Bar blokes. They’ve served up more than one million teapot cocktails, relocated to new premises after a devastating fire, laughed a lot, cried some more, hosted plenty of shindigs and have plans to take on a new hospo venture. Owner Steve Ward and boss Gary Livesey reminisce with Louise Scott as they plan their birthday bash

Brit Steve Ward set up Queenstown’s The World Bar in 1996, he wasn’t sure if it would be a goer.

“I’m quite surprised we got this far,” he laughs.

The local business is celebrating its 21st birthday next weekend with a mini food and music festival.

Ward, who is now based in Sydney, Australia, running a second bar, says there’ve been a few trials and tribulations along the way.

The renowned “raucous” haunt on Shotover Street soon became a hospo institution known for its teapot tipples.

Ward reveals it was purely accidental.

“There was a promotion on with one of the drinks companies and they were giving out cocktails in [cocktail] shakers. They were quite popular and we ran out one night.

“We needed to find a vessel to put them in and someone grabbed a teapot and lobbed it [the cocktail] in it.

“Then the next person came back and said ‘can I get one of those drinks in a teapot?’, then someone else did and someone else – and it became a thing.”

Gary Livesey started out on the door in 2007 and was described as the friendliest bouncer in town.

He’s worked his way up and now manages the Queenstown side of things.

However, things turned sour in 2013 when the Shotover St bar burned down after a fire spread from the kitchen of Fat Badgers pizzeria.

Livesey describes it as “soul-destroying”.

Ward was in Sydney when he got the call and had to jump on the next plane home.

“It was a real shock and I remember Gary ringing me up. He said ‘we’ve got a real problem – something really bad has happened, the bar is on fire’.

“I asked how bad it was and I heard his voice cracking … I thought, oh no.”

He arrived back in the resort and viewed the damage.

Water from the fire crew had mixed with ash and created six inches of slurry on the floor.

The only thing they could salvage was a couple of copper lamp shades which now sit in the new premises.

So does an urn – an ode to the Shotover St bar.

Livesey says it was decimated. “To see so many years of hard work, your design and finishing touches in bits was just harrowing. The smell – I will never forget the smell.”

However, within a month they opened The Find – now Smiths Craft Beer House – also on Shotover St, as a stop gap.

It was supposed to be temporary so staffers could be kept on – but it remained for another two years.

The plan was to go back to the old location, but logistics didn’t pan out and the landlord pulled the pin due to costs.

They needed a plan B.

After a few private conversations they secured its new current site on Church St, formerly Monty’s.

It needed a bit of work.

They raised the inside roof, sound-proofed the venue, opened up the front window, added greenery to the beer garden and designed all the furniture themselves.

Livesey says it means the new digs have their personality included in the walls.

The bar, which employs nearly 30 staff, re-opened in 2015.

Things are a bit different and there’s more focus on food.

The pair, who admit to enjoying the odd tipple, say it feels good to be re-homed after the drama.

Plans are under way for the birthday bash, which will include live music, DJ sets, food specials and good old banter. It’s pitched as an epic weekend party.

Livesey: “We want it to be a celebration of old friends and new friends, seeing old friendly faces having a good time.

“People in the hospitality industry, the tourism industry, locals who have maybe outgrown going out on a regular basis – it would be great to see them for a one-off.”

They’ve also got another venture up their sleeve, and recently took the lease of the historic cottage next door.

Livesey is keeping schtum about details and simply says watch this space.

The World Bar birthday shenanigans, Friday, June 16 to Sunday, June 18. All events free