Tap Bar to let the booze flow

Owner Grady Elliot hoped to make money by charging $15 at the door and selling mocktails
Owner Grady Elliot hoped to make money by charging $15 at the door and selling mocktails

The owner of New Zealand's first-ever alcohol-free bar has put its failure down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Tap Bar on Auckland's Karangahape Rd has shut after only five weeks, and will be reopening soon as a traditional licensed premise.

Owner Grady Elliot hoped to make money by charging $15 at the door and selling "mocktails and juices, Red Bulls, energy drinks" to clubbers who weren't quite ready to go home yet.

While Tap had no trouble getting people in the door, they generally opted for tap water.

"People coming up and just drinking tap water is not going to pay the bills," Mr Elliot said on the Paul Henry programme this morning.

Most customers were also on their way home by 6:30am, only two-and-a-half hours after the bars closed, leaving Tap only a short window in which to make money.

Mr Elliot says the location might have had something to do with the low-spending clientele Tap attracted, and perhaps the Viaduct would be a better spot.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams says it was a good idea, but should have been planned better.

"My biggest concerns were that they were only open from 4am, which means that they were targeting those exiting other places, rather than establishing a proper alcohol-free experience."

Despite its failure, Ms Williams says New Zealand is ready for an alcohol-free bar.

"The police want to close everything now at three o'clock, so there's going to be an opportunity and we might be ahead of our time, I think," says Mr Elliot.

He's now putting "plan B" into action – turning Tap into a real bar, with booze – which aside from getting a licence to sell, won't require a lot of change.

"It was just like walking into a nightclub environment – there was nothing different. We had a DJ, we had security. For all intents and purposes you were walking into a nightclub. It was no different to walking into any other bar on K Rd or anywhere around there. You had the disco, the security on the door, we had a coat check, you had all the drinks and that – but there just was no alcohol.

"Plan A was to try this; plan B was if it didn't work, it's all set up and ready to go."

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