Queenstown’s only gay watering hole has swung the other way – to become a topless bar.
Rolla is the new-look Church Lane establishment replacing 12 Bar – which became a gay-friendly bar in March this year but fizzled after six months.
Kiwi girl Kelly Smith came to Queenstown from Australia recently to buy the business off local restaurateur Mark Jessop, who’s owned 12 Bar since 2006.
But Rolla’s not a sleazy revue bar, Smith insists – it’s tasteful.
“At the moment it’s topless burlesque – it’s a show, it’s theatrical. It won’t be perceived as a strip bar because that’s not what it is.”
Smith, who wouldn’t be photographed, adds: “We are a very high-end bar.”
Opening last weekend, Smith had two girls baring their boobs – wearing only costume makeup and skimpy tulle skirts – to serve tables while she and two bar staff were fully-clothed.
“When the full product gets delivered it will be professional dancers – they are athletes,” Smith says.
The “full product” includes poles for scantily-clad girls to gyrate on, and Smith also hopes to attract national and international acoustic musicians. She believes Rolla – open to 21-year-olds and over – will be a hit in the resort.
“[Topless burlesque] has been in every other part of the world for many, many years. It’s in Auckland, Wellington, it’s quite a common product,” Smith says.
“I’ve done my research enough to know [it will work] and the first two nights of opening proved it.”
Back in March, Jessop handed over 12 Bar management to gay couple Stephen Tarawa and David Knight to fly the rainbow flag.
But “it wasn’t a financially sustainable operation”, Jessop says.
As owner of Tatler and Prime, Jessop decided to sell the 12 Bar business.
“I’ve had too much on my plate for a long time and I’ve been looking to relieve some of that pressure. I’m very happy that Kelly’s come and taken over.”