The owner of a bar in Wanaka has been criticised after refusing to serve cocktails to a couple, instead directing them to a "gay bar" if they wanted to enjoyed a mixed drink.

Glyn Barry and Gordy Watson said they were subjected to a "verbal assault" when they visited the White House bar and spoke with owner Peter White, Stuff reports.

White refused to mix a whisky sour for the couple, telling them to visit local bar Lalaland, which he referred to as a "gay bar".

Barry said she was reluctant to complain but that White was "in the hospitality industry and standing behind a bar and it didn't come across in a friendly manner."

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Lalaland Lounge Bar general manager Alex Earll told Stuff that his venue was a "safe space bar" that "doesn't judge on people's orientation."

Peter White has operated the White House for 25 years, with online reviews calling it "happily haphazard" and its owner "interesting."

He told Stuff that he couldn't remember the exact conversation but his comments would have been "light hearted."

He went on to say that his bar was "gay friendly."

"We don't put a sign up, but we get a hell of a lot of gay men and women here because they like the extremely relaxed atmosphere.

"If I have caused any offence to anyone I would unreservedly totally apologise."