Stage and kitchen make venue

Serving nostalgia . . . Fifty Gorillas Grill & Venue owner Ian Lindsay relaxes on a food serving counter made from a Commer van – a nod to his childhood. PHOTO: SHAWN MACVINUE

A Dunedin restaurant has emerged from a brimstone mist to celebrate its first birthday.

When Dunedin businessman Ian Lindsay closed the doors of his nightclub Brimstone in central Dunedin last year, they stayed shut for a month for the space to be refitted.

He spent all of his refit budget – $50,000 – and a name of a new business was born. The slang term for 1000 pounds in England is a gorilla.

“I only had 50 gorillas to spend.”

The fit-out in Fifty Gorillas Grill & Venue includes exposing brick walls, building a kitchen wall from beer crates, and creating a serving counter from parts of a salvaged Commer van.

“That’s sentimental for me – my family owned a Commer van in the 1980s and we used go camping in it to Omarama.”

The business celebrates being open a year this month.

A major part of the fit-out was building a stage at the front.

The business was a family-friendly restaurant until about 9pm and hosted live bands one or two nights a week.

The venue hosted Northland te reo thrash metal band Alien Weaponry and a full house of 285 patrons last month.

Nearly 100 bands have performed in the new venue in the first year.

The change in business operation had been dramatic.

Brimstone was a nightclub open two nights a week, where Fifty Gorillas was open five days from 5pm and looking to be open every night.

He bought Brimstone – “a bloody good profitable business” – as a going concern and ran it for another nine years.

“I’m surprised it lasted 18 years – that’s pretty massive for one business.”

As Brimstone failed to attract patrons, a decision was made to do something new.

Patrons were pleasantly surprised by the transformation, he said.

When the kitchen was in Brimstone, it served just enough food to meet the requirements for the business to get an alcohol licence. Now the kitchen served food from two menus – adults’ and children’s.

Now when a family with children enters the establishment, staff greet them with a jar of colouring-in pencils and directs them to games of Giant Jenga and Connect Four on the stage.

A business had to “move with the times” and serve food to endure, he said.

“If a lot of bars around town didn’t do food side, they wouldn’t survive.”