Motel – Metamorphosis, man

Motel – Metamorphosis, man.

Motel has always occupied its own elite little niche amongst barhopping Wellingtonians. It’s out of the way, round the corner from its big sister restaurant Chow, and quite low key. The door opens basically right out onto the side street where the bar is located, so you have the added excitement of potentially being squashed by a taxi when you stumble out. It’s exciting.

A friend and I went to check out the recently refurbished Motel the other afternoon. Talking to Matty, the owner, over a long black it became apparent why he had a decided to mix things up. “It might smell a bit like wet paint in there,” he told us as he led us through Chow. “There’s a show on next week.”

The idea behind Motel is that it is a space where local artists can come, pitch an idea to the owners and – if approved – turn the bar into their own gallery.

“We don’t just let them use the bar as a space,” Matty explained “they actually get to repaint the bar, to use it accentuate the art.”

This seems like an awesome concept. The artist gets to show their art off in surroundings that best suit it, and patrons of Motel get an ever-changing bar. For instance, when Matty showed us round, the walls were black and there were psychedelic vinyl prints on the wall. There were also three lightboxes on the wall behind the bar with more crazy coloured artwork inside. Last week the walls were white, and for the next exhibition they could be green or pink or covered in tinfoil. It really is brilliant that local artists have the opportunity to get creative with the space that they are using.

“We’re also going to start getting the artists who showcase their stuff here to leave something for permanent. For instance, the guy who was here last is going to paint one of the drainpipes out in the smoking area.”

How cool is that? Not only will the bar itself be constantly changing, but there will also be a slow accumulation of original and permanent art fixtures. I’m intrigued to see what it will look like in a year.

And don’t worry, for all those among you who enjoy the drinking side of an art exhibition more than the actual work, the heart of Motel hasn’t been compromised. They will still whip up your favourite cocktail, or supply you with one of their eighty(!) whiskeys. The famous extensive bar is still there, but hidden now, but that, of course, could all change.

“That’s the whole thing about the theme and idea behind the bar,” Matty told me. “People can come in and love it or hate it, but that’s fine, because they’ll still end up talking about it, and if they didn’t like it this week then in a couple of weeks it’ll be completely different.”

It’s such a neat concept, and one that Wellington, as such a cultural hotspot, is sure to embrace. I can’t wait to go in on March 2nd to see Motel’s latest transformation.



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Be good to know where this bar actually is.

By Rachel, 23 February 2013


Hey Rachel,

Motel is round the corner from Chow on Tory Street, down the alleyway that leads to Boogy Wonderland. Go check it out!

By Joe, 24 February 2013

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