Ivy is the glitter-soaked heart of Wellington’s LGBTQI+ nightlife

For community, drag, drinks and inclusive fun – there's nowhere quite like Ivy

Burlesque performer Blue Virtue prepares for a show. They also perform drag under the name the Bombay Bombshell.

Where

Cuba Precinct

Location

63 Cuba Street
Te Aro

Whether you’re looking to dance until the wee hours, cheer on world-class drag performers, or simply have a quiet brew with friends on a weekday, Ivy Bar is a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike. Former bartender Tasmin Prichard pulls back the sequined curtain on Wellington’s biggest, brightest LGBTQ+ venue.

I remember the first time I walked into Ivy Bar. It was a Saturday, I was nearly nineteen, and nervous. Bright lights flashing pink and green, the heavy thud-thud-thud of a Lady Gaga club remix, and joyous laughter. I immediately felt at home. A drag queen, over six foot tall and glittering, twirled past me with her hands raised. Looking around, everyone was dancing and grinning ear-to-ear. The energy in the club was magic.

 

Ivy Bar doorperson Jeff Tollan
Ivy Bar dancers Jeff Tollan

I worked at Ivy Bar for over three years, pulling all-nighter shifts pouring drinks, shuffling playlists, and greeting visitors from all over the world. Once, on a break, I sat next to a patron who’d flown up for the weekend from Dunedin. “My friends wanted to go to the other bars,” he said, as we watched an orderly line form outside the doors. “But I wanted to stay here. This is the coolest bar in New Zealand.” Inside, I watched him make new friends and dance the night away.

Ivy is open to anyone who is accepting and inclusive

Steven Mawhinney

Since its original opening on Dixon St in 2009, Ivy has become a staple of the capital’s nightlife. Making Ivy an accessible and welcoming space for the community has always been important to owner and hospitality veteran Steven Mawhinney.  “We’re lucky to be able to make Ivy a fun, safe, and exciting place for all our rainbow whānau to come and be themselves. Our venue is open to anyone who is accepting and inclusive. My staff and I always make sure to put the LGBTQ+ community – especially those who might not always feel safe on a Saturday night in town – at the heart of what we do.” he says. 

Crowd favourite and former Mx Capital Drag winner Harlie Lux has been performing at Ivy Bar for over four years. She’s watched the Wellington drag scene evolve from a small, tight-knit group into a constantly expanding kaleidoscope of multi-talented artists. “It feels like you’re part of something much bigger than yourself,” she says. “I’ve grown so much as an artist here – everyone has. I’m really proud to be part of it.”

 

 

The Bombay Bombshell has some fun with Dunedin burlesque artist and producer Jersey Rhein.
Ivy Bar group of women Jeff Tollan
Ivy Bar - Hariel, and Willy SmacknTush take on Sweeney Todd at the Tim Burton Drag Show.
Ivy Bar - Robin Yablind uses a chair to wow the crowd at a recent collaboration between Burlesk Dunedin and Haus of Sin.

The weekly line-up at Ivy

Every weekend, Ivy Bar hosts sold-out shows like “King vs. Queen, “Lip Sync Assassins” and one-off themed gigs like “That’s So 2000s: A Drag Show” and “POC: Performers of Colour”.

If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, Ivy Bar runs a karaoke night on Wednesdays hosted by an up-and-coming drag performer to test their mic chops. Fab Fridays, an evening of performances, games, and drink specials, is always free entry.

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