Craft beer pub leads Strand revamp

By Kiri Gillespie, Sandra Conchie

An award-winning brewing company has expanded to open a craft beer bar in Tauranga - one of several projects breathing new life into The Strand.

Rotorua's Croucher Brewing will open Brew Craft Beer Pub today in the former Syndicate bar.

Nigel Gregory, who owns Croucher Brewing with Paul Croucher, said Tauranga was an obvious choice for expanding the business because it was close and offered something unique.

Croucher Brewing has operated for nearly nine years and opened its first bar in Rotorua just over two years ago. The original Brew bar won "outstanding bar" in the Rotorua Hospitality Awards in June. Bar manager and co-owner of the Tauranga Brew bar Jonathon (Jock) Dalby won "outstanding bartender".

"We wanted to bring a full-on craft beer experience to Tauranga," Mr Gregory said.

"We've had plenty of advice not to come to The Strand from Tauranga people, which is a shame, but we are quietly confident that we can provide something unique.

There seems to be a bit of action [of new venues opening]. As a whole, we can take the area to a new level for dining and drinking."

Macau, a contemporary Asian restaurant and bar, is destined to open where Zaggers 2 was located, and Japanese restaurant Takara is relocating to the former Naked Grape and Steakout location on Wharf St.

A mystery restaurant is expected to take the ground floor of the new building where the Grumpy Mole Saloon is being demolished.

Last month, De Bier Haus was relaunched as a Mexican bar and restaurant, following on from openings of The Phoenix and Comida bars.

"Lots of people were saying you should go to the Mount, it's going to be really hard on The Strand," Mr Gregory said.

"We are not kidding ourselves. It won't be easy but we are doing something really cool. We just want to be really positive about it.

"There's almost a rejuvenation of the hospitality scene on The Strand and we can be a part of that."

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty branch president Clayton Mitchell said The Strand was undergoing a transformation that would take it back to its former glory.

"Going back several years ago, The Strand was the absolute metropolis where everybody went down and wanted to be part of."

Over time, The Strand became saturated with different venues competing for customers, drawing in the wrong people who caused trouble and people stopped going, Mr Mitchell said.

Things were changing, he said.

"For anybody who's looked at a business there and done the numbers of the cost of rates and rent and looked at what they can get ... The Strand will be revitalised."

Tauranga restaurateur Kirsty Goddard is opening Macau next month and said The Strand needed a little facelift after a "slump" in recent years.

"I know there's a lot of nervousness about having a business on The Strand.

"But I don't see why The Strand can't become its own food precinct.

"Auckland has Britomart and other cities have their areas," Ms Goddard said. "It could just do with new energy, I guess, and it's going to get it."

Ms Goddard has run Tay St cafe, Grange Road Cafe, Astrolabe and helped develop Bravo.

Meanwhile, demolition of the old Grumpy Mole Saloon is expected to be completed by the end of September to make way for a near $2 million three-storey replacement.

Veros Property Planners development manager Peter Williams said a restaurant tenant would occupy the ground floor and part of the first floor of the three-storey development, known as The Lofts.

The balance would be used by other businesses, with space for 1-3 other tenants.

The restaurant tenant would not be identified at this stage.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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