When the closure of the Cook Islands border in March due to Covid-19 pandemic started affecting his restaurant business, Mussell saw the downtime as an opportunity to complete a project he has been working for over a year.
He had been planning on extending the seating capacity of his popular Arorangi-based Waterline Restaurant, and add a second bar to his beachside property.
A week ago, he opened the new Outrigger Bar to the public, garnering a lot of attention and praise.
Mussell started working on the bar a year ago, “not knowing the industry was going to turn out the way it has”.
“But it provided a lot of time to be able to do a detailed work and I enjoyed doing it,” says Mussell.
“A lot of local material has been used in here … some beautiful timber from a friend down the road.
“It’s been a labour of love.”
Mussell took personal charge of the construction work and employed a couple of people specially to work on the floor and the roofing.
He hopes the extension of approximately 70 square metres will cater for 30 additional people.
“I’m thinking in the long term. Okay, our tourist numbers will never be the same as they have been in the past, not in the next two to three years anyways. And if we do get lucky then the overflow from that old area to this new area would be really appropriate.”
In the past Mussell, had to refer guests to other businesses due to limited space.
“We were doing 70, we can easily do 100 now. Before if there were over 70 guests, we would have to refer them to somebody else which in the future will be our niche market.
“We are getting a lot of enquiries about wedding and birthday celebrations and this new bar and extension will come in handy.”
In the short term, Mussell says the restaurant and the bar have gained some popularity among the locals.
“We already got requests ‘can we do this, can we do that, could we come on Friday night with a group’ and that sort of thing. We want to make it a local hangout place and the response we are getting is very encouraging.”
Mussell says once the project was complete, someone suggested giving the new bar a name.
“I haven’t actually thought about it but then my wife Akisi suggested, why don’t we call it Outrigger Bar because it has lot of history with it and it suits the place. Even though she came up with a few more names which I didn’t adhere to, I felt Outrigger was perfect.
“There is an outrigger on the wall and it’s the symbol. One of my first businesses here in the Cook Islands was Outrigger Restaurant which I sold in 1984. It was located opposite Manuia Beach Resort but unfortunately it got burned down.”
The delicate design of the bar, including the furniture made by Mussell, has been attracting a lot of positive remarks.
People are also appreciating his concept of incorporating coconut trees in his design to give the place a distinctive look.
“I built the bar around a couple of coconut trees. There’s one in particular which I think maybe 60 to 70 years old, I couldn’t bring myself to cut it down.”
Mussell has also left the coconut trees in between the restaurant and the beach area to give guests a picturesque moment especially during the evenings.
“The evening sun glare is phenomenal. Guests can take a picture of the sunset through those coconut leaves or just walk down to the beach for a clear shot.”
Mussell thanks his friends and wellwishers for supporting and inspiring him to complete the project.
The Waterline Restaurant and Outrigger Bar is open for lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Saturday.