Association ends Starters Bar lease

The Otago University Students’ Association’s lease of Starters Bar has been terminated. PHOTO:...
The Otago University Students’ Association’s lease of Starters Bar has been terminated. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN.
The fate of a building that housed one of Dunedin’s last student bars is up in the air after Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) decided to let go of its lease.

The OUSA received national media coverage in 2018, after it bought the Starters Bar lease in an effort to create "a safe entertainment option for students, particularly first-year students".

The bar, previously called The Oriental, reopened in time for the 2019 Otago University Orientation Week.

However, the bar, which closed during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 and has remained closed since, is now off the OUSA’s books after the student council voted to let go of its lease earlier this month.

Asked why it had taken so long to make the decision, OUSA president Quintin Jane said it decided to terminate the lease "after exhausting all our options for reopening on the current site".

Starters Bar was closed in 2021 after the building was deemed a seismic risk.

"OUSA has not wanted to rush this decision, as we are committed to reopening a bar to ensure that students have safe options for socialisation in the North Dunedin area.

"Ensuring we’ve exhausted every possible option, as well as Covid shifting our focus in the middle, has meant that this has been a long process."

Mr Jane said there were "no regrets".

"We loved Starters while it was open, and we remain committed to exploring any possible alternatives in North Dunedin.

"We’re always looking and will continue to partner with the university to deliver successful events such as Orientation.

"Safe venues and harm reduction is at the core of OUSA’s mission."

One of the building’s owners, Ross and Dowling Trustees (2006) Ltd director Simon Anderson, said "there are issues with the building, not least a seismic assessment of the building revealed critical weaknesses and low seismic performance".

"It is hoped that a new venue up to current standards might be possible," he said.

"However, there are regulatory matters to get to grips with before any firm plans can be made."