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Award-winning Wanaka restaurant calls for help as it faces COVID-prompted closure

Ode Conscious Dining chef and owner Lucas Parkinson.

Award-winning Wanaka restaurant calls for help as it faces COVID-prompted closure

One of Wanaka’s top restaurants is asking for help in a last-ditch attempt to prevent its permanent closure in November.

Award-winning Wanaka restaurant calls for help as it faces COVID-prompted closure

Ode Conscious Dining, an award-winning restaurant specialising in organic cuisine, is set to close its doors after the pandemic proved one challenge too many.

Fifteen months after Ode opened in 2017, the restaurant burnt down and had to close for a year.

After reopening in time for a busy Wanaka summer, the restaurant was again forced to close during lockdown.

Despite a solid recovery after restrictions eased, the second lockdown has again affected Ode to the point where owner and chef Lucas Parkinson decided it was time to close the restaurant for good.

 

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This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and it didn’t come lightly, I’ve thought long and hard about this decision… It is with great sadness that I announce the permanent closure of Ode. It’s not that Ode isn’t a valid business model, or that Im not a smart chef but the fact that every time we got on top of things and built a financial cushion something out of our control sits on that cushion and takes it away from us. We were doing well and then Ode burned down, we dealt with a year of closure and seemingly endless insurance cases and council setbacks, fighting for our right to open and retrieve the money owed to us, some of which never came. Then we reopened Ode 2.0 and after a few tricky months we got on top of things until Covid shut us down for over 3 months, again exhausting all of our savings, then with incredible local support & community spirit and 2 tonnes of apple crumble later we reopened, things were going really well until the second lockdown hit and we lost a majority of our bookings, since then we’ve been trying claw our way back but shoulder season in Wanaka proved too much for Ode to withstand. We’ve independently held Ode together since day one, I borrowed a lot of money and now it’s reached the point where my funds have run dry. . Our last service will be Sunday 8th November but in true Ode fashion we are not going out without a fight, if we can find adequate investors or a buyer then Ode can live on and we can make it through to what looks like a very fortunate summer, but I simply can not do this alone. This hurdle is proving too high for me to handle alone, mentally, physically and financially. We have a strong local, national & international following that has helped us to serve some of NZ’s most progressive organic cuisine. I’ve been honoured that through Ode we have changed the way our industry views food, where it comes from and the effort that goes into producing it, proud that I held a culture on my shoulders, inspired countless chefs and been awarded such humbling titles. Thank you to everyone who has made this happen, especially my family, my team and our producers. Kia kaha NZ. Stay strong. Chef Lucas.

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Parkinson is seeking investment to keep the doors open. With a busy summer season just around the corner, Parkinson believes his restaurant can make it with funding or investment.

“The only way to save Ode and what is one of New Zealand’s only truly organic and local restaurants is to find investors or buyers to keep it going,” he says.

At this stage, Ode’s last service will be on 8 November, and Parkinson says the restaurant will not reopen unless there is a viable offer by the end of the year.

While the hospitality industry has no doubt been hit incredibly hard by coronavirus restrictions this year, Ode Conscious Dining has faced more bad luck than most since it opened.

“It’s not that Ode is not a valid business model but the fact that every time we started to get on top of things and build a financial cushion of savings, something came to sit on our cushion and take it away from us,” Parkinson says.

Parkinson had to sell the family home to get Ode back on its feet after the restaurant burnt down, following battles with insurance companies and council setbacks which saw him burn through funds.

The first lockdown resulted in another evaporation of funds and it looked as through the restaurant would not reopen. The Ode team turned to making apple crumble, selling more than two tonnes of the dessert and raising $20,000, enough to get Ode up and running again.

 

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It’s no secret that many of us in the hospitality industry closed suddenly and with huge operating costs, being so locally driven we owe tens of thousands of dollars to honest & hardworking locals, so I’ve decided to use One of NZ’s favourite treats, Apple Crumble,to raise funds to pay our epic local farmers,hunters,fishermen , producers & suppliers and some funds to get Ode open again! Keep an eye out as I’ll be releasing this to purchase in the next couple days, just in time for Mother’s Day if our supplies arrive in time!!! It’s going to be $10, feeds 2-3 adults , and FREE DELIVERY! Also!!! Comment and DM us your best family crumble recipe, if we use it I’ll send you a free Organic Apple crumble 🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎 #lovewanaka #odewanaka #local #chef #love 📷- @jasonasare

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However, the arrival of the second lockdown saw most of the restaurant’s upcoming bookings cancelled and the restaurant has struggled to recover since.

Parkinson encourages anyone who may have an expression of interest in helping the restaurant to contact him by emailing [email protected]

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