Downtown tavern in a Quirk of fate

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Ricky Quirk, a bankrupt former hospitality mogul who opened Queenstown’s Wakatipu Tavern 13 years ago, is back in a new guise. 

Quirk will help new owner Paul Le Cheminant, of Wellington, rebrand the tavern after a $250,000 refit. 

Le Cheminant takes over next Monday from landlord Ian Hamilton and reopens the bar next Thursday. 

Next March he will relaunch the tavern as Malbas Republic, under Quirk’s guidance. 

Quirk already manages the Malbas brand for three bars co-owned by Le Cheminant in Palmerston North – where he’s now based – and others in Christchurch and Whangarei. 

Quirk’s brother Dwayne, who has run Wanaka HQ bar for the past year, will manage the Queenstown bar. 

“Why Dwayne is keen to run it and Paul is keen to buy it is it has the only TAB in Queenstown and 18 gaming machines,” Ricky Quirk says. 

“Hospitality has been tough of late – these days you have to have a reason for people to want to go somewhere.
The refit is also timely as the TAB is relaunching nationwide. 

Quirk: “For us the Rugby World Cup [next year] is important. 

“You can’t tell me those rugby fans are going to come to New Zealand and not visit Queenstown.” 

Quirk and his family opened the Wakatipu Tavern and other hospitality businesses in Hamilton’s then-new building in 1997. 

He and Dunedin’s Mike Cates eventually owned 27 bars, which they sold to Australia’s CEA Trading for $38 million in 2007. 

Quirk says he and Cates, who were both bankrupted last year, were short-paid $5m. 

“We left vendor finance in and they never paid it,” Quirk says. 

The pair had managed the bars for CEA Trading but their contract was terminated before it went under.