Order has been restored to the Viaduct kingdom after one of two $1000 stone lions guarding Auckland's Soul Bar was returned last night by a contrite young man who'd publicised his theft online.
The distinctive 80kg stone lion outside the stalwart Viaduct restaurant was stolen just before 2am on March 25.
Soul bar commercial manager Olivia Carter said they had been directed to the thief online after he posted several images and videos to Instagram of himself riding and licking the statue at his home.
"We obviously named him on our social media because we tried contacting him and he hadn't got back to us. Then lots of people got back to us and said, I know him, he's my friend," Carter said.
"So he had the pressure put on him by people that he knew, and he rang us yesterday, and said 'Hi, I've got your lion, I'd like to return it.'
"We were like okay, great. And he said 'I don't know how I'm going to get it back to you. It's quite heavy. Can I drive the car up? Is that allowed?'
CCTV footage of Soul bar and bistro stone lion being stolen from Auckland's Viaduct at 2am on March 25, 2021. Photo / Supplied
Cater said they offered him the trolley the young man also uplifted from nearby bar Saint Alice to transport the statue along the Viaduct promenade.
"He came at 7 o'clock, it wasn't dark. There were plenty of people here. He was I guess owning the fact that he was bringing it back," Carter said.
"I wasn't here personally for it, but my colleague was and she said he was very sorry, he was very contrite and said 'I was just drunk, it was one of those things and I felt bad about it on the weekend so I decided to bring it back."
Carter said the response from their patrons after the Herald published the initial theft has been striking.
"It's quite interesting how many people have been interested in it actually. People know about it," Carter said.
"You know it was quite funny yesterday, people were coming in for lunch and they were like 'oh we've seen one lion is missing' so they were getting photos with the other lion.
"I think it's just lots of people have an affiliation with Soul and they like it for different reasons. Then we were in the news for something. People, their heartstrings or loyalties were being pulled."
Due to the young man's remorse and ownership of the theft, Carter said the restaurant will not be pursuing the theft further with police after initially reporting it.
Part of the back of the lion was chipped off in the theft but the man responsible said he was happy to pay for any repairs.
"That's all we wanted really [the lion back]. I mean the police still haven't called us," Carter said.
"The obvious remorse he showed when he was back and the fact that he came and did it in daylight. I thought that was pretty good of him to be fair."
The thieves rolling away with lion statue, laughing. Photo / Supplied
But she says they won't be easily subjected again to a late-night uplift of their outdoor decor.
"We've got someone coming to secure them. The camera has been adjusted so it sees both of them perfectly now. Just in case."
Soul bar has consistently featured in Auckland's top 50 restaurants over the past decade and has been an institution within the City of Sails' social scene - attracting such guests as Beyonce and Jay Z over the duration.
The lions had been an enduring attraction for their patrons since the restaurant opened in 2006.
"They're just two lions out the front. We quite love the look of them," Carer said.
"It's super surprising how many people come up and get their photo taken with the lion, under the Soul sign. It's one of those things that have been fascinating even to me, to be honest. People really love those lions."