Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Movable feasts 2: glut or gluttons?

As I mentioned in my oral submission to the waterfront development subcommittee, I can't agree with Waterfront Watch's continued assertions that there are already enough restaurants on the waterfront. Pauline Swann even made an off-the-cuff comment in her submission that Wellington as a whole has too many restaurants already, and that for every new place that opens, another one closes. It's true that we had a spate of closures at the beginning of the year, but it looks like a lot of them are now reopening. This seems an opportune time for an update of the map I made nearly a year ago showing openings and closures in the hospitality industry.

Here's my new map, showing changes since August 2005. Red dots show new restaurants, bars or cafés, where "new" means that the place is either open or just about to open, and that last year the space was either empty, non-existent or used for non-hospitality purposes. Blue dots show closures, by which I mean that there's no sign of it reopening in the near future. Purple shows places that closed in the last year, but look set for reopening soon. I've omitted anything that closed and reopened during the year, or opened for only a brief period.

Restaurant, bar and cafe changes in Wellington 2005-2006: red for new, blue for closed, purple for pendingSo, there are only three places that closed for good, and one of them (Neat) is recent enough that it's hard to tell how long it will stay vacant. By contrast, there are twenty new places! I'm being fairly broad in my definition here, including shops that now double as cafés (Tamarillo, Meat on Tory, Offbeat Originals) and a few places that are predominantly takeaway joints (Burger Fuel, Kaffee Eis). That's a net increase of 17 over the last year alone, so it looks like the market's still there for new ventures. Add that to nearly 30 new venues on my earlier map covering previous years, and it looks like there's a continuing demand for eating out.

How does Wellington support all this activity when it hassn't been growing all that rapidly? The secret is that most of the growth is happening downtown. The provisional census figures confirm that Lambton and Te Aro have been the fastest-growing parts of the city over the last 5 years, with an extra 4000 residents. If you look back over the last ten years, Wellington City has only grown by 23,000, but nearly half of that has been in the CBD and inner residential neighbourhoods (such as Thorndon, Mt Cook and Mt Vic). For all of these people, eating out is going to be much more convenient than for people living further out. I'd also suggest (with nothing but anecdotal evidence, though it seems fairly obvious) that the sort of people who move into the inner city are those who drink and dine out much more than the national average.

Recent projections indicate that a further 3000 people are expected to move into the central city in the next 2-3 years. I tried to calculate what that would mean for the hospitality market in an earlier post, but perhaps we can extrapolate from the past 5 years. If 4000 extra residents supported over 45 new food and drink outlets, then 3000 should justify over 30 extra cafés, bars, restaurants and clubs! Of course there have been other factors, such as increased tourist and office population, as well as socioeconomic and cultural changes, but I think that if the move to inner-city living continues as expected, then there's room for a few more restaurants yet to enliven the waterfront.

For reference, here are the names of the places on the map above, listed from north to south. If I've missed anything, please let me know.

Opened (red)
Mojo Summit
Gloria Jean's
Midland Sushi
Fuel Waring Taylor St
One Red Dog Kumutoto
Green Room
Centre of Gravity
Kaffee Eis Frank Kitts
Tamarillo (now sells coffee and food)
St Johns (opening in August)
Crazy Horse
Siem Reap (Dixon St)
Offbeat Originals (now sells coffee and food)
Meat on Tory
ex-Svago (work has started)
Burger Fuel
Milk Crate
ex-Roxburgh (opened last night)
Mojo Cambridge Tce

Closed (blue)
Bar 155

Pending (purple)
ex-Bouquet Garni
ex-Diva (Boss Bar)
ex-Taste Buds
ex-Beau Monde
Il Casino (closed for refurbishment)


At 8:05 pm, June 29, 2006, Blogger Unknown said...

What about Mojo - State Insurance Building (1 Willis Street)? I'm sure that opened sometime after August... It's quite impressive, too.

At 8:58 am, June 30, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I think it must have opened before August, since it's in my notes from back then and last year's map has a dot for it. That was probably only the second Mojo, and their empire has expanded pretty rapidly since then.


Post a Comment

<< Home