It's been almost six years since Eat Streat opened for business, closing a stretch of Tutanekai St to cars. Since then it's become a popular dining precinct for locals and visitors to Rotorua. Now there are calls to trial expansion of the street. Zizi Sparks finds out what's proposed and how local businesses feel about it.
• From street to streat: Looking back at Eat Streat's first five years
• Lakes Water Quality Society proposes change to reduce catfish spread
• Rotorua Lakes Council election sees diverse members elected
• How much do councillors and mayors earn?
A Rotorua advocacy group is calling for the temporary expansion of Eat Streat during the summer months but affected businesses are divided on the proposal.
Evolve Rotorua is urging the council and local businesses to trial the expansion of Eat Streat from the existing 100m stretch between Whakaue and Pukaki Sts to include the 100m stretch between Pukaki and Arawa Sts.
The group is proposing a trial to close off the stretch of street to vehicles on weekdays after 5pm and on weekends after 1pm from December to March.
This would allow parking during the day and a pedestrian and outdoor eating space during the evenings and weekends.
Evolve member Ryan Gray said the group believed there was a "strong case to build on the success of Eat Streat" and the trial could be permanent if successful.
The block contains 11 cafes, restaurants and bars, a dairy and a church.
"The trial could enable owners to expand their businesses, encouraging more pedestrians to the area in the evenings and weekends, and help make Rotorua more exciting."
Gray said there would be lots to figure out before it came to fruition, including designs and any costs and that would be a discussion between the council and businesses.
"We can facilitate discussion but they know what's best for business.
"The important part is, all cafes have a unique identity and we want that to be maintained and brought out into the street.
"We've got the UN [United Nations] of restaurants here."
Evolve member Ben Sandford believed Eat Streat's expansion was a natural progression.
"The activation of the street as a new public space could help develop our night-time economy, increase vibrancy in the city, attract more people to this area and through this begin to address safety issues and help our local businesses."
Member Anna Steele said the proposal required business support.
"We're keen to generate discussion and ideas but it's not ours to do or to own."
Former councillor Karen Hunt, who helped get Eat Streat off the ground, welcomed the pilot.
"I think it's great to do a pilot. There will be initial resistance, there always is. We had the same thing with Eat Streat.
"The whole point is to start somewhere and move in one direction or the other."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said making things happen was about partnerships and the council would provide whatever support possible.
"I love Eat Streat – it has been hugely successful and I would support any moves to expand on that success.
"Our goal has always been for a vibrant inner city that attracts activity and people, and this idea plays into work already under way to review what's happening in our inner city and . . . what needs to happen next."
Rotorua Lakes Council operations group manager Henry Weston said the council hadn't been approached about the idea but was keen to work with Evolve.
Jason Wright, the chairman of the Eat Streat Collective, also welcomed the expansion and said it would attract more people to the middle of town.
"Anything that's going to improve the CBD is welcome."
What the businesses think
"One Eat Streat is enough"
That's the view of Goldiluck Bakery owner Renneth Thongly.
"We need car parks more than Eat Streat 2.0."
Dianne Dairy owner Sukhjit Singh also opposed the proposal because most of his business involved customers popping in for one or two things rather than staying for extended periods.
Singh referred back to the 2017/2018 trial of a parklet which saw three car parks closed for outdoor dining.
"Customers complained about the trial. We had about 100 people sign a petition against it."
Artisan Cafe owner Milani Thompson wanted to see how the proposal would work.
"I think doing it temporarily is going to be hard. Our thoughts would be do it properly and make it look spectacular."
She said the proposal would have little effect on the cafe given its hours.
El Mexicano Zapata owner Eduardo Diaz wholeheartedly supported the proposal.
"Every country in the world has amazing places for eateries. Food is very important. Rotorua is the first or second tourist destination in New Zealand so we should provide fun areas for dining.
"A proposal is great but I'd like to see it happen. Let's do it because people want it."
Diaz said as far as he was concerned a trial had already been done in the form of the 2017/2018 parklet.
"It looked great. Every time I looked across the road I was envious."
Lovely India owner Narulal Taili was also supportive. He said Eat Streat was a destination for diners and expanding it would be good for business.
Ali Baba owner Ramzi Amiiri thought the proposal was a good idea but shouldn't be a carbon copy of Eat Streat.
"People here would feel equal. We pay rates and rent and staff . . . It may bring more jobs and help the economy if we get busy.
"It has to look different and be something that benefits the town and different approach to culture of the Kiwi people."
Mo's Bar owner Moana Hingston said they would like to see Eat Streat run the length of Tutanekai St and welcomed the proposal.
Other businesses on the street include Nando's, Kia Ora Japan, The Thai Restaurant, Fortune Chinese, The Greenhouse and Destiny Church.