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Restaurant owners pushed off by Hobbit

Nov 18th, 2012 | By | Category: Lead Story, News

WHILE the crowds of thousands expected for the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey might appear to be good for Wellington business, council regulations are frustrating some.

A number of bars and restaurants on Courtenay Place, which will be closed to traffic, are losing their outdoor seating for the November 28 event.

To accommodate the evening premiere, footpaths have to be kept completely clear from 6am until at least 7.30pm.

Many owners are not bothered but some are upset with the council for the way they have imposed the regulation.

PUSHED OFF: Pizzeria owner John David is annoyed at the way the council has imposed this regulation.

Mr David is worried about how the regulation will affect his business on the day.

“[outdoor seating] makes it lively, it makes it look like the shop is open,” he said.

“I think it’s ridiculous, at the end of the day we pay to have seating outside.”

Wellington City Council spokesperson Richard MacLean said that the regulation was vital for public safety.

“Given that a large number of people will be there if it’s a nice day, [we] don’t want people tripping over signs and tables.”

He said the pavements would also need to be kept clear because of the council’s evacuation plan, in case of an emergency.

Crowds of about 15,000 are expected to congregate where a 500 metre red carpet will stretch from Taranaki street, to the Embassy Theatre.

Hummingbird café owner Mary Coleman said she tried to negotiate with the council when they told her of the regulation.

“They came in one day, two or three weeks ago, it was incredibly late [notice],” she said.

“We tried to negotiate. We went as high as we could to get this changed.”

She said that she, and other places, had already arranged to hire out their venues for the day.

“Seating is a part of why people wanted to hire us out.”

Mr MacLean said public safety was more important than people that want to hire out their venue.

“To be perfectly blunt, we think two or three weeks’ notice is long enough,” he said.

Mr David said if they are paying for outdoor seating, then they should be able to use it, and if not, they should be reimbursed.

“Since we are paying for seating per square metre, per year, we should be able to use it.”

They are not going to deduct it [from our fee]. They aren’t willing to negotiate.”

Courtenay Place and some surrounding roads will be closed from November 27 to 29 for the premiere for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The council is spending $1.1 million on the event, 100 per cent of which is being covered by commercial rates.


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