After 24 years of parties, celebrities and gossip on Ponsonby Rd, restaurant institution SPQR is starting a new venture.

Chris Rupe is opening a new restaurant in the 105-year-old Ponsonby Post Office, above, with his daughter and wife. His SPQR business partner Paula Macks is not involved.

The bistro will open in early November and is similar to SPQR with a French Mediterranean theme but will be more relaxed. The prices will be reasonable and the courtyard one of the main features.

Rupe can't reveal the name yet as they're still narrowing it down from three options. "The name is always the hardest.


"If I wasn't going to open here someone else would. So it might as well be me. Everything is classic with a twist," he said.

Rupe's wife, Meegan, and daughter, Courtney, 26, who has worked with him for six years, will help run the business.

It's hard to talk about SPQR without mentioning who goes there. Rupe rumbles off a list of guests including Mick Jagger, Keanu Reeves, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Duran Duran. He thinks the rich and famous are attracted to the restaurant as a place they can be themselves. But he's cautious about giving away details of his guests.

"I could give you two or three pages of stuff but I can't, I'd have an empty restaurant.

"It's not for us to tell the world what's going on."

SPQR started off life as a bar in 1992 and became known for its fun and frivolous fancy dress parties with themes like Leatherette, New York Wonder City and Love Boat.

It held a coming out party in the late 1990s to celebrate gay pride.

"Back in those days SPQR was gay friendly. It just started off like that, right at the start we had a lot of gay staff. Everyone had fun back in those days."

Chris Rupe
Chris Rupe

Rupe admitted that people were a bit more relaxed then. People probably drank a lot more than they do now and stayed out a lot later. "Now everyone has kind of grown up and got a mortgage. It's all their children who are coming in."

Rupe thinks the recipe for creating an institution is passion, staff and atmosphere, in that order. And not being afraid to stick to your guns and perfect what you've got.

"There's also the food element rather than the bar element and actually like a lot of classics they [institutions] don't change their menu too much.

"We're really looking forward to the new venture. It's exciting, fresh and it's very Ponsonby."