Beach space gobbled up

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Low-rent deal on public land gives restaurant big seating boost.

There’s a piece of Queenstown you can’t buy for love or money – but a restaurant can rent it for a song.

A Queenstown Lakes District Council committee this week approved letting 12sq m of Queenstown Bay foreshore reserve to the Bathhouse for up to 10 years.

After public submissions and final sign-off by Conservation Minister Tim Groser, the Bathhouse will be licensed to put four dining tables and 16 chairs on the lakeshore directly in front.

The licence enshrines a “temporary permit” granted last November, council papers say.

The extra dining space boosts Bathhouse customer capacity by 40 per cent – at a rental of just $80 per square metre, or $960 a year all up.

Bayleys agent Marty Barwood says prime restaurant or retail space in Queenstown’s CBD leases at $1000 per square metre per year. Restaurants in The Mall with outdoor dining pay QLDC $100 per square metre annually.

Council papers record discussion with the Bathhouse on whether tables and chairs will “obstruct public use of Queenstown Beach, especially in summer months when this area has a high concentration of pedestrians”.

“[The Bathhouse] noted this area of the beach is wide and can accommodate many people,” comes the response.
Leading local environmentalist Karen Swaine is disturbed at Queenstown Bay public reserve being privately commercialised.

“It’s the same concerns I have over commercial creep [in] Queenstown Gardens,” she says.

“QLDC should err on the side of caution and protect Queenstown Beach as a reserve right by the Gardens – not treat it as the CBD.”

It’s a dangerous precedent – someone else will spot the Bathhouse commercialism and push for a hotdog stall on the beach, Swaine says.

“Or after a couple of years [the Bathhouse] will say, ‘Oh look, everything’s working well – instead of four tables, we want eight tables and 32 seats.’

“And we know QLDC is not very good at monitoring or enforcing.”

The original bathhouse opened in 1912 to commemorate King George V’s coronation – after falling into disrepair, it was restored between 1993-96 when outdoor decks and two wings were added and the Bathhouse restaurant was born.