Purported to have been a brothel, this name of this flat instead refers to its proximity to the pub across the road. This flat is an excellent example of how the meaning of named flats can morph and change over time. Once famously known as the Ori, (The Oriental Tavern) is currently known as Starters Bar. The Ori was well known as a student bar for several decades and in the 1980s and 1990s was a popular band venue. Historic venue details for the bar https://www.dunedinmusic.com/venues/40
The original flat sign (2007) painted black with white lettering and detail, depicts 27 askew foot steps leading from a smaller sign THE ORI, implying a drunken pathway home.
A later sign depicts heavenly cloud forms and opening golden gates, but no reflection of the origin of the name or connection to the pub across the road.
This photo (2016) from the Prime Campus account appears to have been taken from Starters Bar.
This artwork commissioned by Prime Campus for the flat, certainly plays on the aspect of the pearly gates.
The Muff Inn was created in 2006 by a group of six female students. The sign was painted white with pink lettering. Miriam Kirkpatrick remembers, “We are totally the original muff inn girls lol – in fact do you remember how we named our house?! It was your idea [Sarah Wakefield] coz we all had bfs at the time except you and we were going to put “one vacancy” 🤣 (Facebook comment, 16 October 2017).
The sign was later replaced, and the name made its way on to the recycling bin and also the flat van which was often seen parked nearby.
Many flats fit within a few general taxonomic categories of either: alcohol, popular culture, or sex. There are very few signs that are clearly representative of ethnicities other than NZ European or heteronormative sexualities.
Here is the one example of a known LGBTQIA sign, made by Kerry Lane c 2014, which is charmingly reminiscent of the party sign hung on Bilbo Baggins’ door in Fellowship of the Ring, “no admittance except on party business“, and which can also be seen on the flat, Bag End on Ethel Benjamin Place.