Sprig & Fern upbeat despite Auckland flop

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 20/03/2014

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Nelson's craft beer brewing success story Sprig & Fern has had its first "miss" with the closure on Monday of its Auckland tavern.

The Sprig & Fern Tavern in Drake St, Freemans Bay, closed its doors permanently this week, eight months after opening.

Tavern manager Sandie Whale said in a statement on the company's website that it had been a difficult business decision but it was a "graceful closure".

It was the ninth tavern in the company's rapidly growing franchise, and had taken over premises that had been a pub for more than a century, formerly The Drake and Kitty O'Briens.

Sprig & Fern co-owner and head brewer Tracy Banner said today they had got it wrong this time, but would continue to look for new premises in Auckland.

"Basically the location didn't suit a Sprig & Fern tavern. Our values are around community-focused taverns but this is not going to stop us looking at Auckland again, but we'd do more due diligence next time.

"There are a lot of great communities there where Sprig & Fern would work, such as Devonport or Mt Eden, or anywhere on the CBD fringe. We'll go back to what we know best which is community-based taverns."

Mrs Banner said the brand was not as well known in Auckland as it was in the other centres outside Nelson, such as Wellington and Christchurch. She said they could have made the decision to close the Auckland tavern a lot earlier, because it was evident early on it wasn't going to fly.

"There are a number of bars in the area that serve the corporate clientele, but there were also businesses around us that were a great support.

"Craft beer is growing in Auckland but it's still quite a way behind Wellington, Christchurch or Nelson," Mrs Banner said.

There are now six Sprig & Fern taverns in the Nelson region, and two in Wellington: one in Tinakori Rd, Thorndon, and the other in Jackson St, Petone, which opened last September.

The Tavern in Queen St, Richmond, opened its doors in December 2004 and later became the first Sprig & Fern Tavern. The Tahuna Sprig & Fern Tavern opened just before Christmas 2012.

The Milton St tavern was awarded New Zealand's Best Bar award in the 2012 Hospitality New Zealand Awards for Excellence, a national accolade that followed on from winning Nelson Bar of the Year.

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- The Nelson Mail

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