Member Spotlight: O.G.B. revitalises a heritage building to create a unique point of difference in Christchurch’s vibrant hospo scene
Once a city of dilapidated buildings bearing the wrath of Mother Nature’s quakes, Christchurch has undergone years of revitalisation efforts and now plays host to a vibrant and creative community – a community full of entrepreneurs such as Nick Inkster, owner of member establishment O.G.B.
We dropped in on Nick at work and caught up with him to chat about O.G.B. and his decision to come back to his roots to rebuild in a city he loves.
After years of working a successful career in Australia, what prompted you to move back to Christchurch and start O.G.B.?
After the earthquakes, I saw an opportunity. There wasn’t a lot of confidence in Cathedral Square and that’s the heart of our city, and one day it will be the heart again.
I came back in 2015 and took up a lease, which I held for over a year without touching it because I knew it was the location I needed for O.G.B. I dreamed about building O.G.B. since I was a teenager. I wanted to design and build a bar that was going to suit the space and was going to complement the building and the people of Christchurch. I wanted to create that lounge room so that people could come any time of the day, all day, every day, whether it’s for coffee or drink.
What’s the scene like in Christchurch now as opposed to when you were last here?
I loved Christchurch, pre-earthquakes. It was where I grew up and where I first started going out. There was a good night scene and nightlife. But I think now it’s actually more exciting because you’ve got a lot of young entrepreneurs coming into town and they have an opportunity to have a crack [at the game] and it’s sort of putting the pressure on these older boys who’ve been in the industry for a while, and keeping everyone on their toes.
I was fortunate enough to be working in a good job in Australia. I came back and invested my own money into the business, and not the brewery’s money. I’ve tried to carve a point of difference…the bar’s got character and soul in it…it’s me.
What do you think makes the Christchurch scene unique?
Christchurch people have that mentality that nothing can stop them now. We’ve been through such disaster with the earthquakes that people’s morale and mindsets are much stronger; there’s a great sense of belief in terms of what people can create. Everyone saw it as an opportunity to create a new vibrant city.
How have you tried to create your own identity with OGB in the current Christchurch hospo scene?
A lot of people asked me before I opened the bar “what’s your theme?”
My theme is Christchurch. My theme is this building.
There’s a lot of places that are opening up that are themed on other countries, whether it’s Mexico, Thai, Chinese, or Vietnamese. My theme is Christchurch and this building. The bar is called O.G.B. – Old Government Building – and is complemented with that old-time fit out from the 1930s to 1950s to bring back some of that heritage.
What is the best piece of advice you can give someone wanting to start out, either in Christchurch or elsewhere in New Zealand?
Create a point of difference. Whether it’s the location, the coffee you brew, the building you’re in – work on it, stick to what you know, and be realistic about things. If you’re not a chef or a bartender, you’ve got to get the right people to do the job for you. And don’t think you can do everything. Hire the right people with the right skillset.
Any special future plans for OGB or anything else in the works?
Inkster Company (my holdings company) would like to source more old buildings around town for more hospitality establishments in the future. But at the moment, there are a few projects on the go. Parlour Bar, which opens in April, will be it’s own bar and sit next to O.G.B. It’ll be branded differently with its own identity.
What are some of your thoughts around the current landscape of hospitality in New Zealand?
There’s such a market in New Zealand hospitality to change the game by way of bringing back proper old-school hospitality in terms of table service, like what they do in Europe. We don’t do that in New Zealand. With O.G.B., it’s all about style and service. That’s why people love it. We need to encourage operators to acknowledge the customer, engage the customer, and then appreciate the customer. Those are my three rules to my staff. If you can do those three things with a smile, at the end of it, you win every time.
All photos via O.G.B. | Video courtesy of Braveheart Christchurch