Cafe culture under threat

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Heavyweight restaurateurs have baulked at plans to almost double alfresco dining rates after a disastrous year. 

Tatler owner Mark Jessop says a proposed 85 per cent hike in the cost of leasing public land outside premises for tables and chairs is ridiculous. 

Jessop is backed by Bunker owner Cameron Mitchell, branch president of the Restaurant Association of New Zealand. 

The plans would see the cost of using space down The Mall increase from $100 per square metre per year to $185, with a five-year lease replacing the existing annual one. 

That per square metre cost would rise by a further 6.25 per cent if outdoor dining and drinking after 10pm is eventually permitted. 

About 40 premises across the district lease land. They would be charged on a tiered system. 

Jessop, who has 10 square metres outside Tatler, says: “We already pay additional rates because we’re in a high-volume, high-foot-traffic area. 

“Now they’re putting it up again. We’re being charged twice. 

“You can’t pass the cost on to the customers – you can’t just put the price of coffees up because people aren’t going to wear it. 

“It just comes out of the profit you’re not making. Businesses are being hit on all sides. My insurance has tripled recently – it’s crazy.” 

In a report by valuation firm APL Property presented to Queenstown Lakes District Council on Tuesday, charges for Shotover Street, Steamer Wharf and the Queenstown foreshore would increase from $80 to $155 per sq m.
Arrowtown, Frankton (up from $35-$90) and Glenorchy ($35) will also be charged. 

Mitchell says: “Members are asking how the council can justify this – Wellington charges a third as much.
“And, why now? Every­body is already finding it tough and it is a bit rude for the council to slap extra charges just because they can. 

“Why throw this in when we’ve had everything over the past year including earthquakes, ash clouds, low tourism numbers and a poor ski season?” 

The report uses council-owned Stanley St car park as a comparison – stating the max $9.50 per day charge equates to $216.12 per sq m. 

Committee chairman Cr John Mann says: “There are also significant advantages in this. 

“I was paying the rates on number one The Mall and having some security of tenure [for five years] is of tremendous value. 

“As an operator I could have got chucked off in five minutes, so I would support this even though it is an extraordinarily big bill.” 

Discounts of up to 75 per cent would be available but carry restrictive measures – such as year-long licences and no business signage. 

A hearings panel of councillors will hear submissions and make recommendations by April 30.