As far as nightspots go, it’s Queenstown’s poisoned chalice.
The Shotover Street space above Westpac wasn’t viable as live music venue Revolver and it didn’t work as South American hangout Melt.
So what makes Australian Adam Nagy – a Queenstowner for eight years – think he can make a go of the site as adult venue Club 88, especially when Queenstown already has a strip bar at Cadillac Club down Church Lane?
Nagy has plenty of answers. He invited Mountain Scene down for a chat on Tuesday to clarify what Club 88 is all about.
In his first interview before opening night two weeks ago, Nagy categorically said: “We’re not a strip club.”
An opening night visit however seemed to indicate that’s pretty much what it was.
Nagy now admits: “Yes, we’re a strip club but there are many other things we’re going to be offering. We didn’t want to be known as just a strip club.
“It’s not one of those seedy places that people think in the back of their mind that strip bars are or adult entertainment venues are.”
Nagy says on Sunday and Monday nights Club 88 will host poker nights with a maximum cash prize of $500.
Not just any old poker – “This will change the face of poker in Queenstown”, he says.
“People can sit at the table the whole time, we’ll have waitresses coming around taking orders. We’ll make them more comfortable and make them feel like they’re playing a real game.”
Nagy also plans to host burlesque shows which he hopes will have local appeal, male strip nights and be the venue of choice during Gay Ski Week this winter.
“We want this to be Queenstown’s local bar – whether it be bringing friends, tourists, famous people. We want this to be one of their first and last stops and we want people to feel comfortable.”
So far, Nagy says he has four bar staff – including himself – and six female dancers with October Protection doing security. Ex-Cadillac Club staffer Sara Nitz has signed on short-term as a consultant to help recruit dancers, he says.
Nagy also plans to head to a Sexpo in Sydney next month to scout for staff from Australia and make contacts to attract international guests to the club.
“People go ‘Oh, it must be the greatest job in the world. You get to sit there and watch girls all day’ but it’s like if you worked in an ice cream factory and they said ‘Here’s all the ice cream you can eat’. You’re only going to eat once or twice and then that’s it – you’re sick of ice cream.”
Any criticism that Club 88 objectifies women?
“We’re not objectifying women and I don’t think I’d objectify women. People who know me from way back know I’ve been in my mankini every St Paddy’s Day for the last five years.
“During Gay Ski Week, if there are enough donations to our charity we’re looking at, there might be a bit of a show with the mankini. Would that mean we’re objectifying men?” Nagy asks.
“A lot of women come in and instead of leaving because they’re disgusted, they’ll stay. They actually have a really good time. They expect it to be somewhere really seedy but end up sitting on leather couches, get nice service, nice drinks. It’s a bit of an eye-opener.”
Nagy won’t reveal how much he’s invested, but says he replaced carpets, curtains and wallpaper, reconfigured the bar, installed lots of large mirrors and renovated three dance rooms and a champagne room for customers wanting a private party.
His father, an electrical engineer back in Australia, put in the sound system and helped out financially, Nagy says.
Nagy says he didn’t set out to own a bar.
“I just sort of fell into it,” he says.
After arriving in Queenstown eight years ago on a backpacking trip, Nagy says he worked at a range of bars including the then-Loaded Hog and Ministry. He also spent four years working in food and beverage for NZSki, rising to team leader by the time he left.
As for Club 88 prices, Nagy won’t reveal private dance rates but says they’re offering premium beers like Peroni for eight dollars a pop. He’ll sell spirits and beers for six dollars on a planned ‘hospo’ night.
The cover charge on the door is $20 but residents can qualify for a locals’ card getting them drink discounts.
Nagy says customer numbers have been increasing each night, including plenty of women.
One Queenstown bar industry veteran who didn’t want to be named didn’t have high hopes: “I reckon in a few weeks they’ll be sitting around in there by themselves wondering where all the customers are.”
But Nagy says he’s in it for the long haul.
“I hope so. I hope I’m not like the rest of the bars.”