Pay now, dine later and help a Coast restaurant expand
WOULD you pay for dinner in advance to help create a brand new dining experience?
That's the question being posed in a quirky crowd funding campaign launched by long-time Mooloolaba restaurateur Luke Searson.
Mr Searson, his wife Candice Ford and business partner Jodie Zohl have been operating Via Italia on the Mooloolaba Esplanade for the past four years.
Having helped launch the business back in 2010, Mr Searson has worked to pay off the restaurant for the past four years and now they are eager to expand and bypass the bureaucracy of sourcing funding from the big banks.
Mr Searson has launched a Kickstarter campaign hoping to raise $55,000 over the next month to fund construction of their dream.
The vision is to create a spin-off wine bar and merchants, titled Frank & Lotti, in the vacant space next door, knocking out the wall between Via Italia and the space.
Italian theming will remain, with a prosecco bar, wide range of Italian wines, homemade cocktails, smoked meats and cheeses, Chianti flowing and cicchetti and tapas set to hydrate and feed the masses.
A space for live music and stand-up comedy is also envisaged in the dedicated bar space, which will provide a point of difference from their family friendly Via Italia restaurant.
A range of funding packages are available for those eager to help turn the dream into a reality.
A pledge of $30 or more will get your name on the founder's wall, which will list all those who helped fund the project.
For $25 or more you get yourself a brunch at Via Italia, while $200 or more will get you dinner for four people at Frank & Lotti.
Donating $1000 or more will get you a table with nine guests while pledges of $10,000 or more will secure you full run of Frank & Lotti for a night with 60 guests, with everything catered for.
Mr Searson said they'd gone through plenty of wine trying to work out how to overcome the hurdles the banks were placing in their path.
"(They say) 'you're a restaurant, we're not going to fund a restaurant'," the 40-year-old, long-time Coast resident said.
"For us, if we can take out the wall it becomes a great space, a really usable space."
The father-of-three said they'd been fine-tuning designs over the past six months and negotiated a deal with the landlord, with the leases being signed on Monday.
He said the vision was, if the fundraising campaign succeeded, to begin stripping out the materials and constructing the space, with an ambitious opening time of early-mid March.
"It's not a donation by any means," Mr Searson said.
"It's pre-buying a dinner ticket basically."
Mr Searson was also keen to bring in his staff on the new venture, giving them a slice of the pie by way of revenue sharing to give them incentive to stay on, work hard and hopefully help them achieve their dreams of owning their own venues one day.
"We want to give them an interest in it," he said, hopeful it was another way of keeping local staff working in the area long-term.
The new venue is envisaged to operate five days a week.
To get involved head to kickstarter.com and search 'Frank and Lotti wine bar and merchants'.