18 Latest Christchurch news at www. .kiwi Thursday May 25 2017 Our People The Star Jason Whitelaw From bouncer to businessman Last week, The Star spoke to Jason Whitelaw about his new bars opening on Victoria St. Today, Bridget Rutherford talks to him about eating Princess Diana’s leftovers, developing subdivisions, and his racehorses Jason, can you tell me about your two new bars on Victoria St? So one’s an oyster and champagne bar called Louis, which has just opened. The other is a hidden opium-themed bar called Red Light District, which will open within the next couple of weeks. The champagne bar is Melbourne-styled, and the opium den is more Sydney. How did you come up with the idea for them? Just through travelling and seeing stuff overseas. I thought there was a gap in the market here in Christchurch. How did you first get into the hospitality industry? I started off as a bouncer in a nightclub on the Gold Coast, Beachroad Nightclub, in 1988. From there I went to Hilton, Jupiters Casino, Watermark Hotel, Chef and Brewer in the United Kingdom, then to Scottish and Newcastle in the UK, and then started buying my own places. Why did you want to get into it? Insanity! It’s really long hours. I’m a builder and a developer and I’ve had lots of hotels and restaurants, so when those two can mix they work out great. How did you get into building? I started doing carpentry during the day and bouncing at nightclubs at night. Now I have my own building company and DIFFERENT: Jason Whitelaw says his bars, Louis and Red Light District, had to have a point of difference from others in Christchurch. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER a couple of subdivisions around Christchurch. Flemington at Lincoln, it will have 650 sections out there. Clearwater Springs at Clearwater and Workotel, which is rebuild accommodation down Main South Rd. We have about 300 people living there. Are you originally from Christchurch? Yes, I went to St Bede’s College. Then I moved to the Gold Coast in 1988 with mum and dad when I had just finished school. What led you to the UK? Just doing the big OE I think. I went there in 1991, and was there for four years in London. I lived just off Fleet St in the city, then I lived in Farm St in Mayfair. That was a huge experience. London’s just so big and there’s something always happening. I saw amazing people and had fantastic experiences. It was a bit of a platform for me to go further in hospitality. And I’m sure you would have run into some celebrities during that time. The pub that I ran was called The Punchbowl. It was very exclusive and right in the middle of Mayfair, so there used to be some really cool things happen. Raine Spencer, Princess Diana’s step-mother used to live across the road. So Diana and her would come over and have lunch, then they’d go out shopping. The staff would call me over and I would sit down and finish Diana’s champagne and finish her lunch. She would always leave something on her plate (laughs). Prince Andrew, Nancy Sinatra, Nigel Mansell, Robert Wagner used to come in. Lots of celebrities. So were you there before Guy Ritchie and Madonna bought it? Yes. They were sniffing around for a couple of years before, so they used to come in a bit. Have you taken what you learned in London and put it into your new ventures? Absolutely. I’ve done a lot of travelling and gone to good restaurants and bars, that’s probably my passion. I’ve learned a hell of a lot overseas. Why develop these bars in Christchurch? I think it just sits with Christchurch, and Christchurch needs it. There’s an opportunity to hit that market and so far, the four or so days Louis has been open, it’s been going great. And Red Light District is also a bit different in the sense it is hidden isn’t it? Yes. It’s through a drycleaner’s shop called Charlie Winston’s of Chelsea. It’s a hidden door that goes through into Red Light District. It’s edgy and sexy, and with some really funky cocktails. That’s quite different for Christchurch. Do you think there’s more opportunities to try these things post-earthquake? I think those opportunities have probably always been here. There’s a lot of bars, cafes and restaurants opening, and quite a few closing. And unless you’re good, unless you’re different, , you’re not going to get through. It’s no good doing the same things, then you just blend into the crowd. You need to stand out from the crowd. How did you get into developing? I’ve been developing for quite a while. It was just a natural progression from owning a building company. Are your family here in Christchurch too? Yes, my wife, son, and mum and dad are here. My son, Louis, is 16 and goes to Boys’ High. Did you name the new bar after him? Yes – he thinks it’s his bar! Do you think he will follow in your footsteps? I don’t know, maybe building. But it’s a bit hard for kids. I’m asking him what he wants to do and he says: ‘You want me to decide what I want to do for the rest of my life, when I still have to ask permission to go to the toilet.’ And when you’re not developing and building bars, what do you like to do in your spare time? I like horse racing. My business partner, Shane Kennedy and I have five racehorses. We had a winner recently. Disturbance raced at Ashburton and won. I also enjoy flying helicopters. I’ve had my private licence for about eight years. I go flying about once a month. EXCLUSIVE: Jason Whitelaw ran The Punchbowl in Mayfair, where celebrities such as Madonna, Princess Diana, former motor-racing driver Nigel Mansell and actor Robert Wagner used to dine. SUCCESS: Louis, a champagne and oyster bar has already opened, while Red Light District will open early next month.
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