Summer at the Boat Shed Cafe in Nelson is idyllic: the sky is blue, aqua seas lap gently against the shore and diners relax on the overwater deck sipping wine.

However, this definitely wasn’t the scene on 1 February 2018 when storm Fehi combined with a king tide to deliver an absolute battering to the waterfront buildings. At the height of the storm surge waves punched up through the floor, inundating the 112-year old building with sea water. “The floorboards were popping up like piano keys,” says Daniel Monopoli, the Boat Shed Cafe’s owner.

At first it was thought damage was restricted to the floor, but as the water-ravaged boards were stripped out he realized that the structure was substantially damaged.

Following four months of repairs, the Boat Shed Cafe reopened on 22 June, the venerable old shed restored to its previous self. “We have worked closely with the landlord and made substantial improvements to the structure to make it ‘seaworthy’, and we’ve upgraded where we could without compromising the feel. We’ve reconfigured front-of-house and achieved greater efficiencies in the kitchen. The cafe has exactly the same feel – it’s simple, pared back but smarter and warmer than before.”

Daniel is proud that he has managed to retain 70-80% of his staff while the cafe has been closed, partly by repositioning staff to the pop-up Boat Shed Cafe in Mapua.

They haven’t been sitting on their hands during the downtime, developing a new menu based around New Zealand seafood and excellent fin fish. “We’ve lightened the menu a little, made it more accessible. People can come in for breakfast and a coffee, then come back for a beer and a nibble. We want to make customers welcome to come for a little and often, as well as for big family dinners and special occasions.”

Lots of regular customers supported the business in its Mapua location and Daniel is pleased to welcome them back.

“It’s a risk when a business has been closed for a while and you lose momentum. We didn’t know what would happen, but the locals are now coming back in. Everything is going extremely well.” boatshedcafe.co.nz

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