Restaurant closes but future 'bright'

In the wake of Covid-19, Sally-Ann Donelly has been forced to permanently shut the Portside...
In the wake of Covid-19, Sally-Ann Donelly has been forced to permanently shut the Portside Restaurant doors. Photo: Gus Patterson
Closing Oamaru's Portside Restaurant was a sad but straightforward decision, owner Sally-Ann Donnelly says.

The iconic restaurant, which overlooks Oamaru Harbour, did not reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown and Mrs Donnelly confirmed it had closed permanently.

“Seventy percent of the business was overseas tourists,” she said.

“It got hit early and quite hard by Covid-19 – we wouldn’t have survived 12 months without overseas tourists.”

The hardest part of the closure was breaking the news to Portside’s 11 “awesome” staff members, Mrs Donnelly said.

“The staff were absolutely amazing, they took the news really well.

“They all turned up the next day to help me clean it out, every single one of them.

“They didn’t have to.”

Mrs Donnelly was trying to help staff find other employment, and several of them had been employed at Fat Sally’s Pub and Restaurant, which she also owned.

When Mrs Donnelly opened Portside in 2008, the appeal was its location, she said.

“It was such an incredible spot. We just loved the site; it’s one of the best spots in New Zealand, really. It was a great place to have a party.”

While the Level 4 lockdown was tough for the hospitality industry, Mrs Donnelly understood the need for it.

“As a New Zealander I don’t want the Government to open the borders too soon.

“We’ve done the hard yards now; we can’t go backwards. I don’t think we could go through this twice.”

While the hospitality industry was doing it tough, Oamaru was lucky compared with other places, she said.

“I think the future for Oamaru is bright. We’ve got an awesome rural community surrounding us, and we are lucky to have the meatworks, the lolly factory.

“We are fortunate to live in a great community with great local support.”

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