Dispute with landlord puts Ernesto Cafe in mothballs
Cuba St favourite Ernesto Cafe is being indefinitely mothballed while its owner seeks out another venture after failing to settle an ongoing dispute with his landlord.
The quake-prone heritage building on the corner of Cuba and Ghuznee streets has been home to Ernesto Cafe since 2008, when Mike and Wendy Marsland took it over.
Mr Marsland said the building needed strengthening and repairs but landlord Stephen Hawke has repeatedly refused to do the work.
The building was damaged when a storm hit the Wellington region on December 28 last year. Two big floor-to-ceiling window panes in the cafe smashed on to the street.
"Half of our building was blown out, it took 45 days for someone to turn up to look at it. There were giant holes in the walls and it was freezing cold."
He said the delays for such repairs made it hard to do business, so he withheld rent.
The money was put into his lawyer's trust account and withheld from Mr Hawke in the hope it would prompt action, but instead Mr Hawke issued Mr Marsland with five weeks' notice, ending the cafe's lease on December 17. Ernesto's last day will be December 15.
Mr Hawke could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Last month, he said the repair problems were all due to delays from the building's insurer and Mr Marsland was issued with notice to leave after the rent lapsed for three months.
Mr Marsland said it was time to move on with his new project, El Matador, a Spanish and Argentinian grill restaurant that would be built in place of Munchen Burger, beside Logan Brown in Cuba St.
Ernesto had a 1950s Cuban theme, but El Matador would be "very 1930s Buenos Aires", he said.
However, he had hopes that Ernesto would be back in Cuba St in the near future.
Ernesto fans will temporarily have to do without their fix as Mr Marsland seeks a new location.
"We are putting Ernesto into mothballs until we find a new location. We absolutely want to be back on Cuba St."
Mr Marsland had no idea how long that would take, and said it was possible Ernesto could end up back at its original location.
The Dominion Post