Whangārei hospitality community unites to help temporarily closed Quail Cafe

The Whangārei hospitality community have created a disaster relief fund for the Quail Cafe. Video / Supplied

Whangārei’s hospitality sector has banded together and established a disaster relief fund to help the Quail Cafe, situated in the Quarry Gardens, which was extensively damaged by slips from Cyclone Gabrielle.

Last week, owners and staff at Aqua Restaurant and Bar, Hello Pickle, Astro Boy, The Butter Factory, Roost and Quail gathered to come up with a fundraising plan for whatever the future may hold for Quail Cafe.

Massive landslides during Cyclone Gabrielle caused heartbreaking damage to the volunteer-run Whangārei Quarry Gardens.

Lily Grau, owner of Quail Cafe for nearly three years, was told the ground around her cafe had been compromised due to the slips around the gardens, resulting in a yellow sticker.


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“I’m really devastated,” Grau said, “It’s the thought of losing everything you’ve worked for.”

Graus’ insurance informed her last week nothing would be covered at this time, and with everything up in the air, the local hospitality industry has decided to rally around her.

Owners and staff from Aqua Restaurant and Bar, Astroboy, The Butter Factory, Hello Pickle, Quail Cafe and Roost gathered last week to find a way to help Quail Cafe.
Owners and staff from Aqua Restaurant and Bar, Astroboy, The Butter Factory, Hello Pickle, Quail Cafe and Roost gathered last week to find a way to help Quail Cafe.

Last week, the group of owners came up with the ‘Hospo 4 Hospo’ collective, a disaster relief fund that will fundraise for any costs which may occur as the future of Quail remains uncertain.

Owner of Hello Pickle, Jess Olsen, said the meeting was “amazing”.


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“We went, ‘Right, what can we do, and what does Lily need?’ And the answer was financial support to cover some of those big outgoings.”

Olsen said the collective was a “beautiful thing that has come out of a disaster”.

The idea of a pop-up cafe venue has also been considered in order to keep Grau and some of her staff busy while geo-technical reports are carried out.

A benefit concert is also in the pipeline, with local bands agreeing to play and proceeds going to the Quail Cafe.

Cafes and restaurants around Whangārei have continued to join the collective, with a video circulating on social media and the pages of the various businesses concerned.

Olsen is impressed by Graus’ ability to “keep on keeping on”.

“She’s handling it with so much grace. I know that Quail is her baby – she pours her all into it.”

Grau says she “doesn’t feel alone” in any of the upheaval.

“I just feel so supported. I don’t know how to express my gratitude,” she said.

“It’s been amazing how the hospitality community has come together and organised this on my behalf without me knowing.”


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Grau said her main priority at present was to look after her staff and keep the business afloat.

She said she was missing her regular customers “so much” and has felt “lost” while wanting to be there for everyone else during Cyclone Gabrielle.

“You get so much energy off the customers. That’s the environment I crave.”

She said regardless of what the future held for the Quail Cafe building, she would “never give up” on her business.

She wants to continue to provide a comfortable and friendly space for everyone to come to.

“I do it out of love. It’s not about money.”


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Olsen said the cyclone and subsequent damage to Quail was the “catalyst” for creating the Hospo 4 Hospo collective.

The collective aims to provide a fallback when small businesses in Whangārei come across unexpected costs.

“We’re talking with lawyers and accountants about how to set this up as a long-term thing. We’re going to see some really cool stuff come from this dark place.”

“We just want each other to thrive,” Olsen said.

You can donate to the Hospo 4 Hospo Givealittle page here: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/help-the-quail-fly-again-hopso-for-hospo?fbclid=IwAR0ykbrbZuHFs3ckCLo-AEu92R3Ti7SdHvMcjYMfLGuB0xpeviiGerY454s.

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