In an attempt to give New Zealand's oldest microbrewery pub and restaurant a future, its owners are looking to the past.
The Shakespeare Restaurant and Brewery will turn 125 years old next year, but owner Sunny Kaushal, 53, says the business is losing up to $10,000 a week and it might not make it to its quasquicentennial.
Covid-19 crisis and the impact of the City Rail Link construction has brought the tavern to its knees, and Kaushal is appealing to customers who have shared happy times and memories for support "before it's too late".
After much research and speaking to customers, Kaushal hopes to draw them by bringing back the food and craft beer from the past that had made the brew pub one of the most popular go-to places in the CBD.
Back on the menu are pork and fennel bangers and mash, 750g burgers and crumbed chicken parmigiana.
Steven Fielding, a brewer who worked there four decades ago, has also been brought back to help today's brewer, Max Scase, craft old favourites such as The Bastard, Macbeth's red ale, Gravediggers Porter and Bard pale ale.
"The Shakespeare is a hospitality icon in Auckland and if it goes there's just nothing else that can replace it," said Kaushal, who bought the business in 2017.
"It has been a tough couple of years of struggling and I have put my life and savings into the business. It has gone beyond me now and I am really appealing to everyone who has had anything to do with us in the past for support."
Kaushal said he was facing family pressure to close the business and his bank has said there would be no more loans.
"My wife is worried about my health and thinks it's better for me to walk away, but I'm determined not to let The Shakespeare shut down under my watch," he said.
"My thoughts are with the 18 staff who depend on this business to feed their families, and also that The Shakespeare is a Kiwi hospitality tradition with a history of nearly 125 years."
The Victorian-style brick pub, built in 1898 on the corner of Wyndham and Albert Sts, was once owned by former All Black hooker Ron Ulrich.
Kaushal said the past year had been "most challenging" with two lockdowns and periods where he couldn't even access the business because of the CRL construction and road works.
However, he said some of the support he has received from customers has been incredibly touching.
"One customer, a lady in her 80s, came when we were struggling to get even a single person through our doors and said she came to support us because this place had given her many fond memories - including meeting her life partner," Kaushal said.
In its heyday, the pub affectionately known as the Shakes had two bars that were popular drinking spots for many CBD workers, including Herald journalists whose offices were just across the street.
Fans are doing what they can to support the business. Writer Kevin Ireland, 87, who was there on Thursday lunching with fellow writers Graeme Lay, 77, and Bernard Brown, 86, said they have made it their weekly meeting place.
"This is a brilliant pub and is a part of history, it would be a terrible shame to see it go," said Ireland, whose first visit to the Shakes was in 1952 when he was a student at the University of Auckland.
Ireland and his pals asked for the old bangers and mash to be added back on the menu.
"Bangers and mash is a blast from the past, and it's definitely played its part in keeping us coming back," Ireland said.
Marisa Bidois of the Restaurant Association said the situation was tragic for most businesses in the CBD.
"It would be devastating to lose such an iconic business like The Shakespeare," she said.
"The CBD has been battered by ongoing road works and this, coupled with the impact of Covid and closed borders, has left many businesses down significantly on last year."
Bidois said this was a great time of year for people to come into the CBD to show some support and check out all that is on offer.