Kiwi lights go out in Massachusetts

A high-profile restaurant trading on New Zealand foods and wines in the United States - the Kiwi Grille at Newburyport, Massachusetts - has closed its doors after less than two years of operation.

The restaurant owner, New Zealander Bruce deMustchine, did not return calls, said the Newburyport Daily News.

Mr deMustchine, formerly from Hawkes Bay, said a few months after opening that the restaurant served 10,000 customers in its first eight weeks and was so successful he was considering expanding to other American cities.

The restaurant's official opening was attended by Christchurch singer Hayley Westenra.

The North American office of Investment NZ, an arm of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, sought to leverage attention on New Zealand from the upmarket restaurant.

New Zealand's ambassador to Washington, John Wood, even suggested it could spur the creation of a "free trade zone" for New Zealand in Newburyport, while state lawmakers declared a statewide "New Zealand Day".

Elected officials and bureaucrats at the state legislature were fed Kiwi Grille food at the event, and state senator Steve Baddour used it to promote discussion of a free trade zone in Newburyport.

The restaurant was expected to sell at least $US1.5 million ($2.2 million) in NZ food and drink products annually.

The restaurant's actual sales figures have not been disclosed, but at the end, building owner Doug Molin said the Kiwi Grille was overwhelmed by debt from renovating the 157-year-old former church.

"It was a hard decision, but in the end it was the only decision that the family could make," he told the Daily News.

The restaurant opened in April 2004 following months of delays caused by costly and time-consuming renovations.

- NZPA

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