Covid 19: O'Connell Street Bistro in Auckland CBD to close

A struggling restaurant in central Auckland has become the latest casualty of the fallout from Covid-19.
The popular OConnell Street Bistro is closing its doors on April 16, ending a 24-year history.

Owners Chris Upton and Amanda Mason said the insecurity caused by Covid-19 and their inability to successfully renegotiate their lease are behind the difficult decision to close.

Unlike many in the hospitality industry they have had to continue paying fixed costs during successive Covid-19 levels, the couple said.

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With the continuing lock downs and the challenges of operating at level 2 in the first two months of 2021, and with no clear respite ahead, it is unsustainable to continue, Upton said.

The renowned bistro, which corners Shortland St and OConnell St, won one Hat in the Cuisine Good Food Awards in 2019 and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the past 17 years.

Babiche Martens/Stuff
Mark Southon, Chris Upton, Jack Makin in the O'Connell St Bistro when it reopened after a fire in 2016

The restaurant has weathered many storms including the power crisis in February 1998 when the eatery was forced to shut down just four months after opening.

Next came a restaurant fire on January 26, 2016, which led to a seven-month closure.

Despite this setback, the couple said they kept their team fully employed and focussed on charity work and restaurant pop-ups.

But the restaurant will now close after a final dinner service on April 16.

Upton said the couple was not retiring and might look at another venture in future years.

While the Bistro has been our lifes work for close to a quarter of a century, we have never thought of it as simply ours.

It belongs to every one of our fabulous patrons who have supported us and enjoyed our hospitality.

We have enjoyed one hell of a wonderful ride and our heartfelt thanks go out to all of our guests who have made the Bistro part of their life.

Upton said the couple had been privileged to work alongside fantastic chefs, managers, sommeliers, waiters and kitchen hands, who had contributed hugely to the bistros success.

We feel great sadness knowing we are at the end of an era, but we also feel joy and satisfaction knowing that together we all created an amazing and special place.

O'Connell St Bistro faced many challenges over the years.

Renowned NZ chef Al Brown of Auckland eateries Depot and Fed Deli said he was just gutted to hear of the fall of an amazing restaurant.

Theyre an iconic restaurant, been part of Auckland city for so long, and weve never heard a bad word said about them, and Ive gone there a number of times, and its always been an incredible restaurant experience.

I just feel for them big time. Theres a real sense of community in the restaurant business in Auckland and a lot of people struggling out there including ourselves at depot and feds.

Its very sad to hear that theyre closing but there are going to be more casualties.


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