Jamie Oliver ditches plan to open restaurant in Wellington
Backers of what was to be Jamie Oliver's first New Zealand restaurant have walked away from the project.
The world-renowned chef was to open his first New Zealand in the refurbished Old Public Trust building on Lambton Quay.
Originally planned to open at the start of 2015, the restaurant has repeatedly been delayed, and on Tuesday landlord Maurice Clark confirmed Jamie's Italian will not be opening a restaurant in the capital.
It is unclear why the Australian company that owns the franchise rights decided to pull out.
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But Clark believed new liquor laws in Sydney may have hit the profits from its many city-centre bars, curbing expansion plans.
"Jamie has decided to not open a restaurant in [Wellington]," Clark said.
"They won't give me a reason why ... they are just walking away from the lease."
The Sydney lockout means bars and restaurants cannot let in any new patrons after 1.30am, and must close completely at 3am.
The Keystone Group, which has the Australian and New Zealand master franchise rights for Jamie's Italian restaurants, operates several bars in central Sydney, including three in King's Cross.
In January, Clark said Jamie's Italian was already paying rent on the Public Trust premises, but had been delayed by work on its Australian franchise.
Clark completed a $10 million restoration of the Old Public Trust building, one of Wellington's oldest and most important heritage sites, in late 2015.
The Italian restaurant was to move into the ground floor and basement, while the Ministry of Culture and Heritage was to occupy the top floors.
Restaurant Association of New Zealand president Mike Egan said it was a "great vote of confidence" for the capital when it was announced that Jamie's Italian was opening.
"We thought, 'Wow, they must think the marketplace can sustain a big machine like that'.
"It would have been a great move. We like competition, lots of good dining choices, and that would have been a great choice ... [so] it's a shame."
Egan believed the restaurant would have livened up of the northern end of Lambton Quay.
"It would have been great for that end of town. They would have been strong enough to revitalise that end of town."
Wellington has been promised a Jamie's Italian before.
Pacific Restaurant Group, licensees for Jamie's Italian, hired restaurant scout David Williams to hunt for a 200-seat venue in the city in 2012, but nothing eventuated.
The group was bought out by The Keystone Group in 2014.
Jamie's Italian was founded in Oxford in 2008 and now has more than 30 restaurants worldwide. The first Australian restaurant was opened in Sydney in 2011.
The menu offers classic antipasti meats and vegetables, mains of osso buco with pork alongside burgers, steak and ribs.
Jamie's Italian has been approached for comment.
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