Collab: From left, Cook Brothers Hospitality's James Arnott, and Future Hospitality's Bert Haines and James Ace have collaborated to move Rhino's Ski Shack into the former Searle Lane & Social premises


A win-win’s emerged following the hibernation of two Queenstown CBD bars due to Covid.

Future Hospitality Group’s Rhino’s Ski Shack had shut, as had Cook Brothers Hospitality’s
Searle Lane & Social.

Last Thursday, however, Rhino’s re-emerged in the Searle Lane premises in a collab between the two hospo operators.

And now the former Rhino’s is being fitted out as a tequila and mezcal bar, Little Mez, that’ll open early next month below Future Hospitality’s Mexican restaurant, Margo’s.

Future Hospitality director Bert Haines says Covid restrictions had made it too hard to keep a nightclub like Rhino’s open.

But, following the success of Margo’s, which launched during Covid two years ago, ‘‘we thought we had to find something that would work in better with Margo’s, and we’ve come
up with a product we think’s going to be epic’’.

The tequila and mezcal concept ‘‘is something that hasn’t been done in Queenstown, or hardly in New Zealand’’, co-director James Ace says.

Moreover, Haines says, ‘‘we’ve got the benefit of being able to still keep Rhino’s alive with the Searle Lane opportunity, so it couldn’t have worked out better’’.

With pizzas, burgers, nachos and wings, the new Rhino’s ‘‘has all those things you look for after a hard day on the mountain’’, he adds, along with the former Searle Lane pool table that’s been dropped down a level.

‘‘We’re going to start with the winter and see how it goes’’.

The original Rhino’s also started as a winter pop-up in 2014, Haines says, ‘‘but we had to quickly drop the ‘pop-up’ off the name’’.

Cook Brothers Hospitality director James Arnott says he’s excited to be ‘‘working with the
leaders in hospitality in Queenstown’’.

‘‘I think it’s an awesome collab — it’s next-level for Searle Lane.’’