The Murphys call last orders

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Queenstown’s longest-established hospitality operators are putting their prime-site businesses on the market. 

A marketing campaign launches today for Lisa and Grant ‘Spud’ Murphy’s Chico’s Bar & Grill and Old Man Rock cafe. 

Grant bought into Chico’s – a restaurant/nightclub now in its 30th year – in 1987. 

Four years later he bought out his remaining partners including his dad Gordon, who operated Arrowtown’s New Orleans pub for 18 years. 

Grant and wife Lisa opened Old Man Rock, below Chico’s, in 1999, at the time of Queenstown’s record flood. 

“People were able to kayak up to our front door,” Grant recalls. 

Grant says he and Lisa are selling as “it’s just time for a change”, and they’re planning to open a convenience  store and licensed cafe at Lake Hayes Estate. 

“We’d like to pour 100 per cent into it.” 

Operating Chico’s and Old Man Rock has been “a fantastic lifestyle,” Grant says. 

“I wouldn’t change it for the world – the only regret I probably have is I can’t be 30 again and do it all again.” 

Grant says “a lot of locals who were here when I started didn’t think I would last six months”. 

“There were only three-odd places to go for a drink after midnight, and we used to think that was pretty tough.” 

Grant puts a lot of their success down to the atmosphere created by their historic premises and its location on the sunny side of The Mall. 

“Ninety-five per cent of tourists walk right past our door so it gives us a chance to market to them.” 

Grant says he was the first person to deploy staff outside to explain the menu – some call it ‘touting’ – and to put out tables and chairs. 

Chico’s became known, too, for its ‘brain eraser’ cocktail and live music. 

Grant says his businesses also became a vehicle to foster his and Lisa’s sporting interests by sponsoring rugby, netball and touch sevens. 

Listing agent Garry Pankhurst, from Hoamz, says it’s up to the market to assess what the businesses are worth – the sale deadline is November 30. 

“Stuff in The Mall doesn’t come along very often, it’ll be pretty sought after, I’m sure.” 

Combined rental for the two businesses is $125,000 a year.