Barluga is situated in an alley/courtyard called Post Office Lane, named after the building it’s next to. Next door is Woody’s, my boss Garth’s best friend Mike’s pool and sports bar. Diagonally across the courtyard is The Cow, a pizza and pasta restaurant owned by Mal Price, friend of Garth and Mike’s other business partner Al. Above Woody’s was the Botswana Butchery, a fine-dining steakhouse also partly owned by Al.
At first I thought all these connections and relationships were tricky, but Wanaka is just one of those towns — you get used to it.
The idea of making sure both Woody’s and Barluga (and, by association, The Cow), did well, Garth, Mike and the head office would do their best to promote the entire Lane, not any one bar. By creating a relaxed-but-trendy atmosphere with great service, music and drinks, each business in the Lane could feed off each other and separate themselves from other Wanaka hospitality joints.
To that end, the head office bought a couple lampposts to sit in front of each of the two entrances to the Lane. They also attached a “Post Office Lane” sign and placards for each business to each lamppost.
The local Wanaka Sun actually did a front-page article on the two new additions, with a priceless quote from Garth: he described the stylish streetlights as adding “a certain timeless ambience” to the Lane. Mike and I vowed to use that phrase as much as possible for the next week, and also come up with a drink by the same name.
One night I came down to work and saw a traffic cone on top of the place where the lamppost had previously stood. This is what happened:
Duncan, a big-shot who used to run the Cardrona ski resort, had come down to the Lane for dinner at Botswana with his family. He drove his car down into the Lane, past one of the lampposts, so his 80-year old father didn’t have to walk down the unusually steep driveway. After dinner, they climbed back into the car and backed up the driveway.
A couple seconds later Garth heard a very loud CRUNCH, and immediately knew what happened. Duncan had run right into the lamppost, and it fractured in several places and collapsed. Duncan was profusely apologetic, assuring Garth that he would replace the fixture.
“I knew Duncan was financially good for it, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him,” Garth told me later, “Those lampposts were antiques built in the early 1900s and imported into this country from the UK. There were only two of them left in the world. That one,” he said and pointed at the other end of the Lane where the matching lamppost still stood, “and the one he just knocked down.”