Profile: Ian Marriott

After having two sawn-off shotguns shoved in his face and a bowie knife held to his throat, Ian Marriott is deadly serious about hospitality.

It was the early 1990’s, Acid House music was on the way out, Brit Pop on the way in and Ian Marriott, a 24-year-old kiwi lad with a back catalogue of running successful Auckland bars, decided to spice things up with a trip to London.

He landed at The Swan in Mitcham, a well-known dive for dealers, wide-boys, and thieves. In those days, and possibly even now, there was a Swan near every run down housing estate in Britain.

“There were three people in there that you could talk to who didn’t want to kill you,” Ian says with absolutely no sense of irony. "I was outta my league and had no idea how violent some of the drinking culture was in Britain.”

Luckily Ian doesn’t give up easily, he says it would have played out differently now, but back then he continued to refuse a ‘lock-in’ even when the two shotguns appeared from beneath long coats. The two geezers looked Ian in the eye and for a second he thought he was going to die over the price of a late night pint. But they turned tail and shot the front windows out instead. Ian Marriott had passed the ultimate landlord test. From then on he was awarded the honorific title, Guvnor or Guv. That’s high praise from the locals, especially for a lad from Whakatane.

Ian’s love affair with bars, beer and music started at age 14 when he would sneak behind the bar at the local soccer club and serve a few Lion Reds. After leaving school he got involved in the Auckland music scene, helping an up-and-coming rock star called Russ Le Roq. Sadly Le Roq’s music career didn’t work out, but those of you that enjoyed Gladiator, Cinderella Man or a Beautiful Mind, know that Russell Crowe’s acting career has gone pretty well.

“Russ was always good to us. If he didn’t have the cash to pay us then he would take us to his mum’s house and she would feed us. I would serve Coca-Cola and toasties to the school kids at his Auckland underage club The Venue.”

Ian was in the studio when ‘Russ’ recorded his first demo and still has a copy. Music has always been the centre of Ian’s world. He has written for many music and entertainment publications in Australia and New Zealand. Music has also helped him turn drinking dives into damn good pubs. From Sunday jazz sessions that attracted Desmond Dekker and Roy Harper, to open jams with members of Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.

“Sometimes they would play, sometimes they would just hang out and listen to the music. They were treated like all the other patrons, to feel welcome and made comfortable.”

And therein lies the key to Ian’s success; his hospitality ethos is about building a community. I walked into Tahi Bar for an after work pint one Friday arvo and left having made a friend. He believes in connecting people, introductions are made and collectives formed. Couples have met and married at Tahi and sons have come of age to join their fathers for a pint.

When Ian and his German born wife Silke opened Tahi Bar on Neville Street, in Warkworth, on February 28, 2008, craft beer was mostly unheard of. Ian was one of the first purveyors of multiple independent brews in the country.

“People thought I was mad, speculating on beer. Customers came in and would say they wouldn’t come back until I had Lion Red on tap. In fact they did come back and are still regulars, but I don’t serve Lion Red.”

Nearly a decade on, Ian is stunned that he has four breweries, including his favourite 8 Wired, and a cidery close by. Ian has helped open the minds and develop the palettes of the beer drinking masses, and encouraged a few friendships along the way. Well, I’ll offer a cheers to that, thanks Guv.

1 Neville Street, Warkworth 09 422 3674