Bad Luck Barbershop barber Mat ‘Stitch’ Erlain (centre), flanked by Future Bars’ James Ace (left) and Bert Haines (right).

A post-Covid collaboration between a Queenstown bar owner and a newcomer barbershop owner has ended up boosting both businesses, helping them pay the rent during tough tourism times.

Former Auckland barber Mat ‘Stitch’ Erlain is now operating his ‘Bad Luck Barbershop’ out of Future Bars’ Rhino’s Ski Shack in downtown Queenstown after his friend, Future Bars’ managing director James Ace came up with an innovative idea. As it’s turned out James’ idea has contributed to saving both businesses from the snip.

Rhino’s was only operating three nights a week with the borders closed and Queenstown’s party wings severely clipped by the Covid crisis. James suggested Mat, who had been working as a barber locally, operate his own barber shop in Rhino’s, which is empty throughout the day, providing resource consent could be obtained.

It was, and the two businesses now tag on the use of the premises with Mat sticking to his corner and a strict clean-up operation after his last cut – 5pm each day from Tuesday through to Saturday. Mat opens at 10am on those days, and come 8pm Rhino’s mulled wine, hot buttered rum, pizzas and après ski sessions kick into gear.

“The domestic tourists still love Rhino’s après ski vibe and the Aussies always enjoy it when they can come over,” says James.

Mat, who had not long moved to Queenstown to work when the Covid crisis hit, prides himself on “great haircuts and bad advice” he offers to his clients in the Rhino’s chair.

“Mat used to be my barber when we (James and business partner Bert Haines) owned Mr Tom’s in Ponsonby,” says James. “He’s always wanted to own his own barber shop and it’s worked both ways,” he says.

Future Bars owns three bars and a restaurant in Queenstown and James says with the borders closed they’d been pleading with their landlords. “But they have a business too,” he says. “This plan works both ways and helps us all stay in business as Mat pays us rent helping us to pay ours.”

They’re now looking at having the barber shop open some late nights during the ski season so punters can sit back with a whisky or a beer while they have a trim. “We might get a group of lads in for beers, or playing Jenga, or having a burger while their mate gets a haircut.”

It’s not the only silver lining for Future Bars. The company took a huge punt after last year’s lockdown, continuing with the build and opening of its new Mexican restaurant and bar, Margo’s, which opened in Queenstown Mall in August.

Margo’s is going so well that they’re now opening a second (third for Queenstown) ice bar, hopefully in December. “Margo’s was going to make or break us, but it’s been a roaring success,” says James. “We’ve had a lot of local support, and domestic visitors from all over – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton Timaru, and now Australians too are on the horizon.”

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