Two leading restaurants on the Auckland waterfront, Euro and Saxon + Parole, have closed their doors, unable to keep trading under Covid-19.
Euro has been based on Princes Wharf since 1999. It was home to celebrity chefs like Simon Gault and was legendary for its long lunches.
Saxon + Parole was described as a "modern steakhouse from New York". It opened at Commercial Bay at the untimely start of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year.
The closures came on the day Auckland recorded 19 cases of Covid - a matter of days before Cabinet decides whether or not the city will move down to level 2.
Euro confirmed the "sad news" on social media yesterday, saying in a statement the extremely difficult decision to keep closed was made this week.
"The ongoing challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months have meant that it is no longer sustainable to reopen, despite doing everything in our power to do so.
"We're incredibly proud of everything we've achieved since Euro first opened in 1999 and it's been our privilege to welcome you through our doors over the last 22 years."
Precinct Properties chief executive Scott Pritchard, whose company built and owns Commercial Bay at the bottom of Queen St, said the challenges of opening the restaurant during the pandemic were too great.
The Herald's restaurant reviewer, Kim Knight, said "Saxon + Parole dished me up the biggest and most delicious hunk of venison I've half-eaten", saying of the restaurant "we don't know how lucky we are".
Pritchard said there were plans to open a "new offering and a new pitch" to replace Saxon + Parole, most likely in February, and he was confident the rest of the hospitality businesses at Commercial Bay would make it through the latest Covid lockdown period.
"Frankly the hospitality sector has been impacted more than most. It's very sad it's falling on deaf ears at the moment with respect to central government support," he said.
In a statement, the owners of Euro said over the past 18 months it had endured lockdowns, prolonged CBD road works, closed borders, severe staffing shortages and working visa issues."
"All these mitigating factors have created the perfect storm and while we've done everything in our power to remain open, unfortunately, it's no longer sustainable to do so."
Euro is part of the Nourish group of restaurants that includes Soul, Andiamo, Jervois Steak House and the Crabshack.
Last year Euro went through a significant rebrand that had been two years in the making, launching with a new fitout and dining experience focused on shareable plates instead of the three-course fine dining concept it was long renowned for.
Nourish founder Richard Sigley said while the move was a bold one considering the uncertain climate, it was impossible to foresee how long the tail end of the pandemic would be.
"Unfortunately, this latest lockdown, the new restrictions imposed under Delta and the previous challenges we've faced mean that it's just not viable for us to continue trading," he said.
Under alert level 2, only 50 people are allowed inside at hospitality and indoor event venues. Euro seats 130.
"I know Euro holds a special place in the hearts of so many people - whether they've celebrated a special occasion here, attended one of our legendary long lunches or simply dined with us," Sigley said.
"It's been an amazing journey and we're extremely grateful to each and every guest that has supported us over the last 22 years," he said.
Top chef Simon Gault had worked at the restaurant.
One customer once contacted the Herald to complain she'd been rejected at the door because she didn't look rich enough.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois was saddened to hear about the loss of Euro, calling it a "jewel" of the Viaduct Harbour that would have continued to thrive had it not been for the devastating effects of Covid-19 on the hospitality industry.
"Likewise for Saxon + Parole. The businesses in Commercial Bay put a huge amount of investment into their establishments on the belief that the revitalised downtown area would offer opportunities from locals and international visitors.
"The closure of these businesses are yet another casualty of the pandemic and highlight the critical need for targeted support for those businesses disproportionately affected," Bidois said.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said restaurants and bars had lost $320 million since the beginning of last year and trade was down by 95 per cent under level 3.
"It's grim. Losing an icon like Euro is a really big blow. I hope it's a bit of a wake-up call for the Government," she said.
Well-known restaurateur and mayoral candidate Leo Molloy said it was "a tragedy" that Euro was closing permanently.
"I opened it on August 3, 1999 and sold it in 2002," he said. "But it's just the tip of the iceberg. Wait 'til you see the iceberg!"
Molloy said he had spoken to many in the restaurant business who also feared for the future and Euro would only be the first big-name restaurant whose doors would stay shut.
"Thirty to 50 per cent of outlets will go under in New Zealand. Auckland will be the key place. I could drop you another half dozen names of restaurants that won't re-open," Molloy said.