Who has a tale to tell about the Ambassador bar?
Sometime in the early 00s a little pocket of something potent existed in Pt Chev. The quiet beach-side suburb possessed a grungy, rockabilly-punk bar tucked into the row of shops opposite the library.
I’ve described the Ambassador bar as a vibrant, messy, banging rock and roll venue. I’ve imagined elements of this and put my own spin on it, because I was never there.
However friends of mine were, and stories abound about their escapades. Some played guitar in heavy metal bands, some discovered substances in the toilets, some danced on the floor and some on top of the bar. The air was smoky, lights were dim and the walls were covered by shiny red wallpaper. Occasionally there would be a late-night venture into the dark theatre space for a peek.
Anecdotes such as this have slipped into a space between nostalgia and retrospect. Too recent to warrant a faraway look in the eyes, too long ago to remember entirely what took place. Peter Roche owned the bar between 2000-2012 then leased the bar to other owners. He remains the landlord and occupier of the main theatre space.
There exists a collection of stories from the early life of the Ambassador Theatre, which was built in 1929, focusing on it’s time spent as a cinema. “Pt Chevalier Memories: 1930s-1950s” was collated by local librarian Padmini Raj. These stories are wonderful but they only give half the picture, as the authors were all children during this time period.
Earlier during my research, I discovered a less-known fact: between 1925-1935 a dancehall existed down by Pt Chev beach. Called “Dixieland by the Sea” it was an incarnation of an earlier venue on Queen Street, “The Dixieland Cabaret”. It attracted busloads of party-goers who travelled from the CBD out to Pt Chev to dance the night away.
It was funded by a Canadian businessman and his heiress partner. They helped to popularise Jazz in Auckland city, providing dance classes and employment for local musicians, as well as entertainment.
Well, dance the night away they did: and dance the night away, we shall.
We are planning a retrospective of the Ambassador Theatre building to celebrate its 90th birthday, including it’s early life but mainly focusing on the stories that haven’t quite been committed to the archives yet - the period of time 2000-2012 when the Ambassador bar was the notorious spot in Pt Chev.
If you have stories, photos or video links, we invite you to share them with us! Please only share photos that you own and have the legal right to share, and that you don’t mind being reposted. (If you don’t want them reposted or if you wish to remain anonymous, please say so.) These can be shared via facebook or emailed via our contact page.