Queenstown CBD bars and restaurants want an “entertainment precinct” in the resort’s heart so alcohol and noise regulations can be relaxed. Tracey Roxburgh reports.
The man fronting Queenstown CBD businesses says it is time for the council to let the resort “grow up”.
A move to include a CBD entertainment precinct in the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s proposed district plan has attracted several submissions, the majority from bar owners.
At present, there is no such area and bars are subject to stringent noise limits, which Downtown QT general manager Steve Wilde believes are not effectively enforced.
Other regulations mean patrons at bars and restaurants largely cannot consume alcohol outside premises past 10pm.
The one exception is the Steamer Wharf – home to 11 bars or restaurants – where a year-long trial allowing patrons to consume alcohol outside up to midnight began in March.
To date there have been no issues.
Under the council proposal, a higher level of noise will be allowed within the entertainment precinct than elsewhere, with levels reflecting the sort of noise already allowed through consents. This means bars and restaurants can make the most of outdoor trading into the evening without breaching noise limits.
Proposed acoustic insulation requirements for apartments and visitor accommodation within the town centre will decrease the likelihood of evening noise causing a nuisance.
However, the precinct as proposed is limited to the area bounded by Camp St, Beach St, Rees St and Searle Lane, prompting bar owners in other parts of the CBD to ask in submissions that it be expanded.
Expanding the proposed precinct is supported by DowntownQT, which says the precinct should include the Village Green precinct, Church St, Earnslaw Park and the Steamer Wharf precinct.
It also wants the council to consider extending outdoor trading, allowing patrons to enjoy hospitality outdoors until midnight year-round.
Wilde tells the Otago Daily Times that will create a more convivial atmosphere.
“It’s about Queenstown growing up really.
“We’re an international resort. We are adults and we need to set a level of behaviour which is grown up and convivial.
“Peoples’ behaviour is tempered by other peoples’ behaviour around them … If people are eating and drinking and being convivial outside … that sets a standard.
“This whole thing of clearing the decks at 10pm … When you shut it all off and the streets go dark and it’s just a bouncer standing on a door … you leave what outside? Undesirable people.”
DowntownQT believes expanding the precinct and raising allowable noise levels will consolidate the hospitality offering in the centre of town and ratify the present situation.
Wilde: “We think it’s better to be enlarged and enforced.”
Ellis Hospitality Group managing director Barry Ellis is supportive and believes the council proposal as it stood was “just nuts”.
Ellis, owner of the Pig & Whistle on Ballarat St, says the main issue with the proposed entertainment precinct is it plays into the hands of landlords.
“It’s become so restrictive that if you want to have any form of entertainment, you’re going to have to move into that area.
“That just plays right into the landlords’ hands.
“Isn’t the CBD an entertainment zone in itself? Why are we restricting it to that size?”
By enlarging the proposed precinct and increasing the noise limit to 65dB it will create a fair playing field across the CBD for hospitality businesses, enabling all to offer outdoor dining to their patrons until midnight.
Ellis: “I’ve spent several thousands of dollars trying to get what is now 1876 and Monty’s bar (both of which he has since sold) to be able to have people outside after 10 o’clock at night.
“In the summertime it’s still daylight and people are being told to pick up their food and take it inside.
“Well, that’s just nuts.”
Ellis also has business interests in Dunedin – he owns Craft Bar, 10 Bar and Ratbags and Innocent Bystander Gourmet Pizza Bar, where patrons can dine or drink outside, provided they are seated.
The inside-after-10pm ruling in Queenstown has been in place since a district plan change in the 1980s and it is solely because of noise issues, he says.
However, if landlords ensure appropriate acoustic insulation is fitted to new buildings in the CBD, it will lessen the impact of outdoor trading at night.
“We have landlords in the town that build cheap buildings that don’t have double glazing, triple glazing, and then complain about the noise their tenants are hearing.
“If they were made to build buildings properly in the CBD and have a responsibility of keeping noise out, as well as us keeping noise in, then we could get away with 60, 65dB in the town quite easily.
“I know we live in a bit of an ampitheatre in the CBD … but it’s unworkable and it has been unworkable since 1989.”
While submissions on the proposed district plan from others in the hospitality industry echo the pair’s thoughts, not everyone supports the proposal.
A submission from the Imperium Group – owner of The Spire Hotel in Church Lane – says there is no justifiable resource management reason to provide separate and increased noise limits for the entertainment precinct.
Doing so, the submission says, will result in significant adverse effects on properties in the area.
Former mayor Warren Cooper – who lives near the CBD – goes one step further.
He objects to any liberalisation of noise levels and has no confidence in the council’s ability to effectively manage the effects of what he says will be the resulting “noise explosion”.
He writes: “We believe the results would be catastrophic for the 3000 plus people who occupy beds in the Queenstown CBD.
“We believe it is essential to maintain the status quo.”
The hearing of district plan submissions is scheduled to start in February and run through until July.
Noise limits: Present and proposed under revised district plans
Present: 65dB (decibels)
Proposed: 50dB within the proposed Business 1 – Entertainment Precinct
Proposed: 65dB within the proposed Entertainment Precinct
Present: 60dB within the Red noise area in city centre
Proposed: 60dB LAeq, (which effectively raises the noise limit by 3dB)