CBD’s new bar boys


A downtown backpackers is spurring another food and beverage precinct in Queenstown. 

The owners of well-known Dunedin student haunt, Captain Cook Tavern, are fitting out a 250sq m bar on ground floor premises opposite the 320-bed Nomads backpackers. 

In turn the bar’s owners are encouraging food operators to take up other vacant ground-floor premises in the Church Street complex. 

Cook Brothers Bars co-owner Richard McLeod says the backpackers – which unusually doesn’t have an in-house bar – swayed his choice of location. 

“Over summer, a lot of energy’s moved to that side of town. If this was all office blocks, it would have been a bit of a tougher decision.” 

McLeod and business partner, fellow Queenstowner James Arnott, plan to have their new bar open by winter. The pair already own four Dunedin outlets – Captain Cook, Octagon bar Alibi and two Velvet Burgers. They also own a bar in Auckland. 

The two 27-year-olds are familiar with the resort. Both were raised here, competed in ski racing and McLeod’s mother is longtime Queenstown media specialist Jenny McLeod. 

Though the CBD is saturated with watering holes, Richard McLeod believes his new venue will appeal to locals and visitors. 

“We’re not coming just to make up the numbers.” 

The premises will have frontages to both Church St – home to Monty’s, Dux de Lux and restaurants – and Searle Lane – neighbouring a hub of late-night bars. 

Searle Lane, McLeod notes, is becoming “Queenstown’s most solid late-night precinct”. 

McLeod says noise levels will be mitigated – he notes one of his landlords, local developer John Martin, also owns the nearby exclusive Spire Hotel. 

A feature of the bar will be its portrayal on the walls of unique and historic Queenstown stories. 

It’s also a theme that’ll be picked up by an adjoining gourmet sandwich joint, which is sub-letting premises off McLeod and Arnott. The sandwich spot will be called Johnny Barrs, after a local 19th century jailer and poet, John Barrs. 

Owner Ramy Abu-Yousef – a one-time American attorney and former head chef and general manager of Bathhouse Restaurant in Queenstown Bay – says Barr would let inmates roam during the day because they always wanted to return at night to eat his wonderful meals. 

Theming will be based on Barr’s extravagant moustache which was popular at the time, Abu-Yousef says.
Local Bayleys sales consultant Marty Barwood says the Cook Brothers bar means the tenancies below Nomads are more likely to be taken up by hospitality rather than retail operators. 

Invercargill’s Devil Burger will be frying up in 130sq m premises, on the Church St/throughway corner. Barwood says he’s also close to signing up a pizzeria. 

Tradestaff is moving into Searle Lane-fronting premises and a travel agency is keen on the site. 

Four vacant tenancies exist below Nomads and another beside the Cook Brothers bar, but Barwood expects most to be taken up by winter. Ground floor rentals are about $500 per sq m compared with $1000 to $1200 for “super-prime” spots in Queenstown’s CBD, Barwood says.