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Tiny bar in the SOL Square laneway run by bar proprietor (and future boss of Smash Palace) Johnny Moore. Cartel was pitched as a Cuban bar. SOL Square was owned by property developer Dave Henderson on a site historically occupied by His Lordship’s Hotel – which was one of the oldest hotel’s built in Christchurch (circa 1876):

It was a pioneer of the Christchurch bar scene, renowned for its rough-and-ready interior – which has been imitated across the board, although never surpassed – its cocktail list and its raffish personality. It was the No 1 location for indie types and successful graphic designers with plaid shirts and neat haircuts.

Cartel: Shabby chic by Jamie Hanton

Always popular (and cramped!), Cartel set a template which Moore followed with the significantly more spacious Goodbye Blue Monday.

In London, he started running pubs and learning more about the trade. By the time he returned in 2004, Moore vowed he’d never work in a bar again. He graduated in journalism from the University of Canterbury, but at job interviews he was still “the mayor’s son”.

Steering clear of the media industry, Moore took a job working with the then- embryonic development in SOL Square. He was a jack-of-all-trades, setting up bars, marketing – and learning.

He and four friends decided to try their own bar, opening Cartel. The furniture was all secondhand and hot water bottles were offered to chilly customers. It was something quite different in the Christchurch bar landscape.

Cartel was a success and because they’d set it up for “next to nothing”, they made back their investment in a month.

Three of the friends went on to form the Britomart Hospitality Group, responsible for highly-successful Auckland bars, and another went on to own Christchurch’s Baretta.

“It’s interesting to think all those places came from a crappy little bar with old furniture and hot water bottles,” he says.

More about Moore (Christchurch Press)

This week at Cartel

  • Monday 2 August: Nick Jackman
  • Tuesday 3 August: The Hicks
  • Wednesday 4 August: DJ Insomniac
  • Thursday 5 August: The Eastern
  • Friday 6 August: El Gato Negro & Nacoa
  • Saturday 7 August: Nacoa
  • Sunday 8 August: Fernando Aragones, QP & MC Charlie Guillotine
From Cartel’s website (Way Back When Machine archive)

However not all was rosy – with SOL Squares hip status came a more varied crowd; and ultimately each of the bars fell victim to their own popularity:

September 2009 – SOL Square bars caught selling alcohol to under-age drinkers. Cartel, Yellow Cross, His Lordship’s, Fat Eddie’s, The Fish & Chip Shop and Ishimoto are forced to close for 24 hours and suspend their general managers for 30 days.

SOL Square may re-open by mid-year (Christchurch Press)

SOL Square was condemned during the Christchurch Earthquakes; however the surrounding buildings that make up borders of the lanes are currently in development.


Location: SOL Square, Central Christchurch

Goodbye Blue Monday: 138 Lichfield Street, Poplar Lanes

Cartel: SOL Square, 106 Lichfield St

Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake

Active as a live music venue: 2007 – 2011

Bar Manager: Johnny Moore

Capacity: 40

All-Ages: No


  • 2007: Johnny Moore returns from London and opens Cartel in the newly developed SOL square
  • 2008: Moore opens Goodbye Blue Monday in nearby Poplar Lanes.
  • 2010 / 2011: Both venues suffer significant damage in Canterbury Earthquakes


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