Nineteen people who lost their jobs when a prominent Paihia restaurant and bar closed down suddenly late last month look set to be rehired by the new owners.

The employees had an anxious weekend after being informed on August 30 that 35 Degrees South, an aquarium-themed restaurant on the Paihia waterfront, and the adjoining Alongside bar would shut the following day.

A sign outside the restaurant said it is closed for renovation and will reopen soon. The two parties involved are bound by a confidentiality agreement so won't comment on the circumstances of the sale but it is understood the business was facing financial difficulties.

Building owner Scott Sutherland, who also ran the business for 10 years before selling it in 2013, said he had bought the business back and would rebrand and reopen it as soon as possible.


The restaurant was in too prominent a place, and too many jobs were involved, to allow it to stay closed. He met the workers last Monday afternoon and assured them they would be looked after.

''It's a big employer in Paihia and it needs to keep going,'' he said.

A clean-up and renovation were under way. Normally getting a new liquor licence took a month at least but ''outstanding'' staff at the Far North District Council had done everything in their power to make it happen faster. He hoped to reopen within two weeks.

Sutherland said he and his wife would run the business initially and decide later whether to let someone else take over.

They had been overwhelmed with support since the change of ownership, he said.
The business had been owned by Latitude 35 Ltd, a Kerikeri-registered company, and managed by Sarah Greener of Paihia. Greener said the business' fixed assets were sold after being on the market since March.

''We're really pleased to hear the purchaser has taken on the staff, and we thank everyone in Paihia and the wider community for their support over the past five years,'' Greener said.

She and her husband continue to own and operate The Rock, an overnight cruise in the Bay of Islands.

The closure is understood to have been a bolt from the blue for staff. A few are on sponsored visas and can stay in New Zealand only as long as they are employed at the restaurant. The new owner said he was working through their issues on a case-by-case basis.