Permission sought for Italian venture

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Oamaru’s newest dining experience will reflect the Victorian era with Italian elegance.

Joint directors of Cucina (1871) Restaurant/Cafe Ltd, Keith and Lynette Stevens and Andrew and Mary-claire Anderson, have a conditional agreement to purchase the North Otago Club building on the corner of Tees and Itchen streets and plan to turn the ground floor of the building into an Italian restaurant seating around 30 to 40 people.

Spokesman Mr Stevens, who, with his wife , returns to Oamaru after a number of years in the hospitality business, particularly in Queenstown, said the purchase of the building, and the proposed use by their company, Cucina 1891 Ltd, has met with the approval of the North Otago Club.

Club members held a special meeting recently to discuss the future of the building and agreed to the sale, Mr Stevens said.

“Our agreement to purchase the building is conditional,” he said.

“We have plans in place for the restaurant but these will not come to fruition until all conditions have been satisfied and we have approval from the Waitaki District Licensing Agency.”

According to Mr Stevens, the new venture will offer some distinct points of difference to local and visitors, including the growing tourist market.

“Everyone we have talked to about the new venture has been supportive and encouraging,” he said. “We are currently negotiating to secure a chef with overseas experience, particularly with Italian cuisine and would expect to employ up to eight people.

“The restaurant will also use local produce wherever possible and we aim to showcase the special qualities of locally grown produce.”

Mr Stevens confirmed there are no plans to change the appearance of building, apart from upgrading the kitchen of the tearooms into a commercial status.

“The building represents one of the most iconic structures in Oamaru,” he said. “It has an outstanding history and links to Oamaru and as a new business in town, we are very supportive of local events and plan to work with the people and organisations who are part of these events.

“We will also offer the top floor of the building to local organisations for occasions such as meetings and will be encouraging organisations to get in touch with us.”

The way ahead for the foursome to realise their hopes of opening an Italian restaurant in the North Otago Club building, will have to satisfy both the Waitaki District Licensing Agency and work through an objection lodged with the Waitaki District Council by the Vicar of St Luke’s Oamaru, the Reverend. Tim Hurd. Mr Hurd’s letter of objection, which has been signed by about 40 parishioners of both St Luke’s Oamaru and St Andrew’s Maheno, said as “[St Luke’s] immediate neighbours and as a church, there was concern at what is a highly undesirable location to have a licensed premises, incompatible with the historic nature and daytime traffic in the area.”

Mr Hurd delivered his letter on Monday to the Waitaki District Council.

By Jacquie Webby