RaBar to close, reopen with food focus

The Ra Bar in the lower Octagon is closing after 18 years and a new bar with a focus on food will open after a five-month renovation.

Ra Bar owner Andre Shi said the Ra Bar's doors would close for the final time at 4am on Sunday.

A company Mr Shi owned would sell the bar to another one of his companies.

The bar would be closed for five months for a ''major renovation'' and new fitout.

The bar's fitout was old and running a bar in Dunedin had been difficult.

The business needed to be refreshed, he said.

''Nightclubs are a dying industry.''

Dunedin's draft local alcohol policy (Lap) was ''still hanging in the air'' so the new bar would focus on food sales rather than bar sales.

Mr Shi had planned to open a new bar focused on alcohol sales but the Lap shifted the focus to food.

''I don't want to take the chance.''

The food served would include Asian fusion and Spanish fusion, he said.

''We need something new to attract people in.''

The Lap originally scheduled to be signed off in February is not finalised.

Ra Bar employed 27 staff and the new bar would employ up to 50.

The current staff would remain employed during the refurbishment, by working at Angus Steak House in St Andrew St, which Mr Shi also owned.

During the renovation, the building's landlord would earthquake-strengthen it, Mr Shi said.

Hospitality Association of New Zealand Otago branch president and Speight's Ale House owner Mark Scully said Mr Shi changing the focus of the business from bar sales to food sales was a ''smart'' move.

''The old days of just running the booze barn seem to be behind us.''

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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