Neighbouring eateries at Whangarei's Town Basin are welcoming rumours that a seafood restaurant is to open at the prime site of the old Tahuna Reef Bar & Restaurant.
The Whangarei District Council has confirmed it has secured a tenant for its second most controversial and vacant building at the Town Basin. The site has been vacant since its previous operation went into liquidation three years ago.
The Advocate understands the owners of Red Pizzeria in Kensington are involved in the new enterprise. Craig Woods of Red Pizzeria declined to comment on the rumours.
The empty building has cast a haunting shadow across the Town Basin since the Tahuna Reef Bar & Restaurant went into liquidation in July 2012.
The former business was owned by Whangarei's Adelaide Meaker, who took over in 2008, after it had been the Gybe Restaurant.
Arco Construction is working on the building and the mezzanine has been filled in to create a complete second floor.
The lack of a full second floor had been a concern for prospective tenants, such as Lone Star Bar & Restaurant, which told the Advocate in 2012 it had been looking at the building for a prospective franchise but wanted more floor space.
A council spokeswoman said work on the turret of the building had also been completed in recent weeks. She said, however, the WDC could not comment on the identity of the new tenant.
"We have a new tenant ... but ... no comment until everything is finalised," she said.
The spokeswoman was yesterday unable to confirm who had paid for the recent renovation - the WDC or the new tenant - and whether or not rent had been reduced to fill the site.
Justin Le Cheminant, who owns Mokaba Cafe and Riverside Cafe at the Town Basin, said he had heard a seafood-oriented restaurant was opening in August.
"Good on them ... this is great for the Town Basin. We need another restaurant down here - we currently have customers queuing out the door."
Reva Meredith of Reva's said she had heard that a restaurant was moving in next door too.
She said she welcomed a little competition.
"It's good to have more activity here. We hope that it brings more people to the Town Basin at night time too. Competition is good."