Richard Sinke, the owner of the Dux Group, embarked on his entrepreneurial journey in 1980 with the purchase of the radical vegetarian restaurant, ‘Dux De Lux.’ Over the past four decades, he has consistently expanded the Dux Group, shaping it into its present-day form. The Dux group embodies the spirit and vibrancy of Christchurch and is firmly embedded in the community as ‘the place to meet.’
As a student at the University of Canterbury, I worked in a restaurant to fund my weekend partying habits, gaining experience in the hospitality industry. In 1977, the newly formed Arts Centre advertised a tenant for a building, and I thought it would be perfect for a vegetarian restaurant with live entertainment and bands.
Given my passion for healthy eating, I was also running an organic market garden in Woolston at the time. However, I lacked the funds to pursue the idea, and another group took the lease with a similar concept.
Although I became a regular customer, I believed I could do better. In 1980, I convinced my parents to mortgage our family home, which was our only asset, to buy the restaurant for the substantial sum of $55k.
This was quite a significant investment for a restaurant in those days, marking the beginning of my Dux journey. Serving delicious and healthy food, particularly fresh salads and meals, became my calling.
Throughout the early phase, I had various partners, but I gradually bought out their shareholdings, each time mortgaging my parents' home to raise the necessary funds. The restaurant proved immensely successful, and when the Civic Childcare Center moved out from the downstairs area, I seized the opportunity to expand. Noticing a demand for non-mainstream beers with unique flavors, I started exploring the craft beer scene.
In 1988, I traveled to San Francisco to observe the early craft beer bars, which sparked my fascination with brewing flavorsome beers in my establishment. I imported a small brew kit from Inn Brewing in the UK, renovated the
old crèche, and built a spacious bar and courtyard. This marked the beginning of the Dux's beer story, making it one of the first craft breweries in New Zealand, then known as a microbrewery.
As fans of the local music scene, we began hosting regular gigs in our cozy bar, accommodating around 100 people. Many well-known local bands, including The Feelers, Salmonella Dub, Shapeshifter, and Op Shop, started their journey to stardom at the Dux. We expanded our music offerings, hosting live outdoor gigs on special occasions like New Year's Eve, attracting thousands of attendees. This further solidified Dux's reputation, but unfortunately, everything changed with the February 2011 earthquake.
Following the closure of the original Dux and the city's somber atmosphere, we quickly took action to bring music back to Christchurch. We transformed an old warehouse into Dux Live—a vibrant venue with an impressive sound system, craft beers, a stage, and a spacious dance floor, reigniting the Dux experience.
Driven by my passion for craft beer and a wholesome diet, I sought a venue to continue the vegetarian/seafood tradition of the original Dux restaurant.
Serendipitously, I discovered a rundown villa on Riccarton Rd, which
we transformed into Dux Dine - an elegantly redesigned space with a stunning interior, a secluded outdoor courtyard, and a departure from the bustling surroundings. Dux Dine opened at the end of 2012, formerly serving as the Station Master's house for Riccarton Railway Station.
Both venues thrived, but something needed to be added to complete the Dux de Lux trilogy. In 2014, I found the perfect location—a redeveloped site in Poplar Lane, close to the new stadium and surrounded by a mix of old and new buildings. Leasing the building, I created Dux Central—a brew pub with four bar spaces, an outdoor courtyard, and flexible dining options. It became a tremendous success in a city hungry for hospitality, offering great brews, food, music, and versatile function rooms.
I cherish all my venues as they reflect a part of me and our city. I have a deep appreciation for historic buildings, enjoying a beer in well-designed courtyards, and savoring flavorsome food. While I personally follow a vegetarian diet, we cater to the market by offering meat at one venue. Dux Dine holds a special place for me, as it represents how I prefer to eat—fresh, clean, and inspired by the Mediterranean concept of food, promoting healthy living.
- Richard Sinke 2023