In 10 years’ serving Wellington drinkers, Little Beer Quarter has survived a fire, a flood and now a pandemic, to become one of the capital’s favourite bars.
On Saturday, July 23, 2011, LBQ opened its doors to friends and family in a soft opening, welcoming in the general public the following day. Situated down Edward Street, people had to know where to go to find this quirky little bar, which had light shades made from bottles and pot plants hanging from the ceiling.
A decade on, co-owner Stacey Walsh continues to run the day-to-day operations alongside Dan Hargreaves, and after years of both great times and intense challenges, they reckon 10 years is a milestone worth celebrating to thank all of their customers and staff over the years.
“I want to keep it quite simple,” says Walsh. “It’s not a private event, anyone that’s ever worked here and anyone that’s ever drunk here is pretty much on the list. So, probably at about 3pm we’re going to have some amazing beers on tap, just invite all the people that love us and that we love, and drink beer and hang out.”
Hargreaves says they’ll have 10 different beers from 10 different breweries that have had a strong connection to LBQ over the years, reflecting some of what the bar has showcased in that time.
LBQ is known for throwing great events; karaoke night on Beervana Wednesday has quite the reputation. “I would only ever do it once a year, but I always think that’s the best,” Walsh says. “And shout out to David Cryer [of Cryer Malt fame], because that was the biggest surprise of the 10 years I’ve worked here – he did the Spice Girls.”
Hargreaves initially had doubts about that one. “I thought it was the worst idea ever, because logistically, I was like, where’s it gonna go? I can just imagine a few people thinking they can sing,” he says. “But Scott from Deep Creek, who knew? Absolute great timbre.”
Hargreaves says they’ve had some memorable nights even when things haven’t gone entirely to plan. “[We were launching] Yeastie Boys’ Her Majesty 2012, and they sent us six kegs of Hud-a-wa’ – because they both start with H, right?
“I’m probably proudest of the [beer and food matching] lunches we’ve done.” says Walsh. “The expectations of people that have bought tickets – they’ve had maybe neutral expectations but they’re always so shocked, I think, about how amazing they are, and I think that’s definitely down to really showcasing the great things about beer and food.”
She says LBQ has also been a place for customers to mark their own significant moments. “We’ve had lots of wakes which, for some people it’s quite morbid, but I’ve always been so flattered that people would want to have their family and friends come up here to something that’s really quite sad. We have just had a wedding reception and a huge amount of birthdays – and even dog birthdays.”
Hargreaves says that makes him quite proud. “That’s probably my favourite thing, is that we’re a really favourite third space for people, that people feel comfortable coming in here. From 80-year-olds who come in every day, to some younger people coming down and making sure they can decompress after what’s gone on this past year. And it’s often not about the beer – it’s really the community aspect at LBQ.”
A fire in 2017 was a big challenge for the team and they’ve had to deal with a flood and the stress of renovations as well, but the difficulties haven’t always been so dramatic. “I’ve found social media a challenge for me,” Walsh says, “The rise of Instagram and just branding the bar was hard. And defining what LBQ was. We were a beer bar, but then I think maybe four years in, I said ‘we’re not a beer bar, we’re a bar’, we had to be a bar to survive.”
As for the next 10 years, it will be a new chapter for Hargreaves and Walsh, with the pair teaming up with Hargreaves’ partner and a former LBQ staff member to start a new project – a beer refillery and off-licence called Monkfish in the heart of the city.
The team secured the premises, on Vivian Street, last year, after Funk Estate was sold and had to move out of the refillery they’d established.
But they’ll still be involved with LBQ as well, as the bar enters its second decade as one of the city’s most-loved beer bars. Walsh and Hargreaves will both be at the little Edward Street bar to cut the cake and give speeches on Saturday, July 24 – and they hope much of New Zealand’s beer community will be there to help them celebrate.
Main photo: LBQ team re-enacts the album cover to The Basement Tapes. Photo: Jed Soane / The Beer Project