Well-known Wellington bar Matterhorn forced to close, owners to leave by October

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Elijah Wood, the Hollywood actor and star of Lord of the Rings, celebrated his 21st birthday at the Matterhorn in 2002. Seen here with one-time Matterhorn bartender Jacob Briars - the man responsible for Matterhorn's signature cocktail The Falling Water.

The Matterhorn has regularly won awards for its food and beverage - in 2012 it took home four accolades at the Capital Awards.

Sean Marshall, owner and operator of Matterhorn, is planning a huge celebration over the next three months. "We need to go out in true Matterhorn style."

Live music has been one of the many features of the Matterhorn's charm. British folk-rock band Mumford and Sons delighted an audience with an impromptu gig in 2012.

The Matterhorn has influenced trends on the capital dining scene, including adding a cafe area to its set up.

The Eggs - a Wellington-based funk, boogaloo supergroup which features members of Fat Freddys Drop - are one of the many bands to play at Matterhorn.

Its outdoor dining is hugely popular with punters.

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Wellington bar Matterhorn has been forced to shut so developers can save a quake-damaged heritage building that once housed the Farmers department store.

Willis Bond & Co has served a notice on the Matterhorn owners, who have been given three months to close its doors.

Matterhorn, which has been at its Cuba St site for 54 years, will shut up shop in October.

Matterhorn restaurant has called Cuba St home for 54 years.

Matterhorn restaurant has called Cuba St home for 54 years.

Owner Sean Marshall said he believed the building would be demolished so the developers could strengthen the former Farmers building, which shared a wall with Matterhorn.

Plans on the table for Farmers Cuba St, earmarked for mixed development
Question mark hangs over future of Farmers on Cuba St

The Matterhorn's oral history

Willis Bond & Co managing director Mark McGuinness said the building was not going to be demolished "in the short-term".

Stars of the entertainment world who have graced Matterhorn over the years include the great jazz trumpeter Louis ...
Peter Bush

Stars of the entertainment world who have graced Matterhorn over the years include the great jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, second left. With him at the cafe in 1964 are singer Trini Lopez, then American ambassador's wife Beryll Powell, Armstrong's wife Lucile, and American ambassador General Herbert B Powell.

"We are not planning on demolishing the building. The building needs strengthening, and that will be done, which is quite different from saying the building is going to be demolished. That's all I can say at this stage."

* Tell us your favourite Matterhorn stories. Email news@dompost.co.nz

Farmers in Cuba St, which is the neighbouring building to Matterhorn, has been closed since the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake in November last year.

In June, it was reported the site was earmarked for a new development that would be a mix of retail, hospitality, residential and potentially office space.

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The plans for redevelopment had not been finalised, McGuinness said.

"We've got no comment at this stage."

Marshall said the restaurant and bar was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"It's a shame that 50 years of Wellington culture doesn't have any value left … [but] it is what it is, you can't change it."

He was disappointed it had been forced to close to make way for a new development.

"For over 50 years, we've occupied this iconic position in Wellington, and finally the old girl is being forced into retirement.

"We're a victim of Wellington's geology, unfortunately, but we're planning a huge celebration of everything we've been over the next three months.

"We are going to do as much as we can to give it heaps on the way out … We need to go out in true Matterhorn style."

Marshall was looking for a new site for the restaurant and bar, but nothing had been finalised yet, he said.

"I'm having a good crack at it, but I've got nothing locked in.

"If I can find a new site for Matterhorn, that'd be great, but at the moment, I'm looking.

"It's tough finding the right site, the right time, the right deal. There are so many ducks that need to line up to get it sorted."

Fellow restaurateur and Wellington Restaurant Association president Mike Egan said it shouldn't be the end for the Cuba St restaurant and bar.

"The building might be broken, but the brand isn't. I'm sure they will find somewhere else.

"I know of many iconic New York restaurants in a third location for the 80 years they've been around. You give it a polish and start again."

A new location would befit the iconic brand the Matterhorn has created, he said.

"They are a good example of how the dining scene has evolved in the capital. 

"They've adapted and added during successive makeovers. They were great with live music, and showcased great musical talent which was quite unique for a restaurant."

Matterhorn began in 1963 as a cafe opened by two Swiss brothers. It has been a bar since 1997.

 - Stuff


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