Hospo couple’s new Arrowtown adventure

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Familiar faces on the Wakatipu hospitality scene have returned from overseas to set up their own venue. 

Sam Gruar, an ex-manager of Queenstown’s upmarket Eichardt’s bar, and his partner Penelope ‘PJ’ Johnson are starting new bar and restaurant La Rumbla in Arrowtown. 

They are on track to open next week in a new development behind the main street’s post office. 

Johnson, the first manager of Good Group’s Queenstown bar Barmuda, also set up its Botswana Butchery restaurant and is back after five years in Auckland and overseas. 

La Rumbla has a license for 110 people, including seating capacity of 65. It’ll initially be open just nights but by next month will be doing lunches and dinners. 

Johnson will run the front of house while Gruar will be on deck as chef, bartender and part-time DJ. They plan to employ up to eight other staff. 

Gruar, originally from Auckland, says he always lived in Arrowtown when working in the Wakatipu and it feels like home to him. 

“I was thinking about doing something in Auckland but wanted to come back. 

“We’re not trying to compete with anyone. We’re just trying to offer a point of difference. We think there’s a bit of room in the market to do what we’re doing – offering food and wine and cocktails.” 

After leaving Queenstown in 2007, Gruar spent six months in New York running a cocktail bar in downtown Manhattan before a stint at Auckland’s highly-rated The French Cafe. 

The pair then spent two years in Spain acting as recruiters and staff managers for one of the world’s largest nightclubs in Ibiza. 

At La Rumbla, they’re promising a menu inspired by their travels in Spain and the south of France – the same goes for the wine list.