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Seafood-themed wharf hospitality venues set to reel in new owners

Tags: Commercial

Two of Northland’s most high-profile food and beverage establishments at the apex of the region’s premier tourism destination have been placed on the market for sale.

35 Degrees South Aquarium Restaurant and Bar, and adjoining venue Alongside sit on a private wharf in the Bay of Islands – where hundreds of day-trip tourists depart daily on Bay of Islands cruises such the famous ‘hole in the rock’, alongside charter fishing boat operators and adventure ride businesses.

Nearby Waitangi Wharf is the main disembarkment point for cruise ship passengers calling into the Bay of Islands while the ‘floating cities’ dock in the middle of the bay. In the current cruise ship season running from September 2017 to June 2018, the Bay of Islands is scheduled to host some 63 passenger liners as this sector of the tourism industry continues to grow in popularity.

Casual-dining 35 Degrees South Aquarium Restaurant and Bar opened at the end of 2013, following a major refurbishment of a somewhat dated hospitality operation which had been running in various guises on the site for several decades. The Alongside function venue opened shortly after in December 2013.

The new venues – which share food and beverage storage and preparation amenities but have different ambience offerings - retained the previous entity’s famous 60,000 litre restaurant centerpiece aquarium.

Ironically, the scores of fish who survived the noise and disruption of a long refurbishment programme all died a year later when power to the venue was cut as a result of Cyclone Lusi, and staff were prevented from entering the premises for health and safety reasons.

In a twist of fate, the demise of 35 Degrees’ fish population ensured the restaurant’s aquarium crayfish contingent in the tank had plenty of protein to feast on - with some of those crustacean survivors still on show today.

Now, the two hospitality businesses – and the fully stocked aquarium with its heritage crayfish - have been placed on the market for sale in a private treaty process through Bayleys Real Estate’s tourism and hospitality division, with offers closing at 4pm on April 12.

Bayleys’ tourism and hospitality group manager Paul Dixon and sales colleague Carolyn Hanson said the two fully licensed Paihia Wharf entities had been strategically developed to compliment different sectors of Paihia’s hospitality market. Collectively, the two venues had a seating capacity of 460 patrons.

“The name 35 Degrees South Aquarium Restaurant and Bar encapsulates the business’s service offering – a restaurant and bar with a target market of walk-in diners or those seeking a casual drink,” Mr Dixon said.

“Meanwhile, Alongside is a larger and more open-plan venue suitable for larger groups and functions – such as weddings, sizeable birthday or anniversary groups, parties, and corporate functions. The outside deck - much of which is under canopy and umbrellas for shade – totals 600 square metres. Sitting above the waterline, the wharf/deck creates an atmosphere few other destinations in Northland can replicate.”

Ms Hanson said the two venues also offered efficiencies of scale in stock purchasing, staffing, and back-office administration. Combined, the two hospitality operations employ some 25 full-time staff, with an addition of 20 part-times staff brought in over the busy summer period – making them one of the largest food and beverage operations in Northland.

Together, the dual businesses generated a turnover of more than $3 million in the 2016/17 financial year.

Unless booked for private functions, 35 Degrees only operates for lunch and evening dinner service, while Alongside is open for breakfast right through to dinner with most of its functions being held in the later part of the day. 35 Degrees is currently serving a menu designed by high profile chef Martin Bosley.

“Right from the outset, the business owners carefully analysed food and beverage spend patterns for not only Paihia Wharf but also the nearby town, and Russell on the other side of the bay. With a proliferation of ‘coffee and muffin’ style food outlets in both locations they have chosen not to compete in that sector – and it’s a decision which has proven to be totally apt,” Ms Hanson said.

“Late afternoons and evenings are when both 35 Degrees South Aquarium Restaurant and Bar, and Alongside come into their own – at a time when they dominate the hospitality and functions market in Paihia.

“With the ‘engine room’ of the businesses – the kitchen and bar infrastructure, and customer toilets – physically straddling the two entities, each can, and do, operate simultaneously while serving different bookings or audiences.

“Their location right on the Paihia waterfront – immediately adjacent to the town’s central park, and at the entrance to the departure point for virtually all of the bay’s marine-related tourism activities – means 35 Degrees South Aquarium Restaurant and Bar enjoys substantial profile to foot traffic and is often the default venue of choice for walk-in customers.”

Both venues are currently on 10-year leases running through to 2023 with one further 10-year right of renewal and a further seven-year right of renewal after that. Rental on the two properties is a total of $302,000 per annum.

Mr Dixon said the two businesses would suit an existing restaurant operator looking to take a step up in size and scale.

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