A serious assault on Saturday morning at a popular Rotorua nightclub has left some members of the hospitality industry worried it could impact people's decisions to go out and feel safe in Rotorua. The assault prompted Ponsonby Rd Lounge Bar to assure residents that gangs would be banned from the night spot in future. Cira Olivier reports.
A serious assault has sparked concerns the hospitality industry in Rotorua will suffer.
But the fears have come with a reassurance that people will be safe and looked after in bars, restaurants and pubs in the district.
On Saturday morning, a man was seriously assaulted at Ponsonby Rd Lounge Bar and taken to Rotorua Hospital and discharged on Monday.
A man was arrested and appeared in Rotorua District Court on Monday in relation to the assault. He is remanded in custody and will reappear on September 2.
Rotorua police crime prevention manager Inspector Brendon Keenan said the incident involved gang members but it was not a "gang event", it was a one-off and alcohol played a role in the assault.
"We haven't seen a lot of it [violence] but we're starting to see a bit of an escalation between who is coming into these premises, being quite intoxicated and the level of harm and violence," he said.
"Eat Streat is a really positive, safe and well-used corridor of the town . . . it's probably a good place to be in town."
He said if establishments wanted to keep good clientele and a good reputation, they needed to be mindful of who they let in and how much alcohol was served.
Hospitality New Zealand Rotorua branch president and Hennessy's Irish Bar owner Reg Hennessy was concerned what the assault could do for other restaurants and bars.
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"It's disturbing to hear about a person being seriously assaulted . . . particularly because the bar is in the middle of Eat Streat," he said.
"This could have a huge negative ripple effect on the whole of Rotorua's hospitality industry which we certainly don't need," he said.
"One incident never kills an industry . . . but this behaviour needs to be clamped down on."
He said the public needed to be assured that bar owners and managers would ensure the safety of customers and staff.
Ambrosia Restaurant and Bar owner Kris Beehre said Saturday's "unnecessary" violence was one business' misfortune and he feared it would affect other businesses.
He said the future of the tourist city was at stake if behaviour like that continued because tourists could hear about it and "second guess" going into town.
"I'm fearful this will put a black mark on Eat Streat and the rest of hospitality in Rotorua."
Beehre said the bar had preventative measures in place to stop something before it happened rather than act on it when it did.
Keenan said Rotorua police made sure to increase their presence on Friday and Saturday nights as they were the busier nights. It was also to reassure the public of their safety.
Meanwhile, advocacy group Evolve Rotorua said the city should be looking at having more businesses operating at night to improve safety.
A statement from the group said a recent report from the New Zealand Initiative shines a light on untapped opportunities for Rotorua.
The report 'Living after Midnight: For a better night-time environment' said: "New Zealand's way of regulating nightlife often restricts the opportunities for night
owls. This has made nights overly tedious without improving issues of public health and security."
Evolve Rotorua spokeswoman Claire Mahon said a big reason why people felt less safe at night was because there were fewer people around. She said policies that encouraged more night-time business actually helped to address issues of public health and security.
Fellow spokesman Ben Sandford said Rotorua had more than 3.3 million visitors a year and many tourists had nothing to do after 9pm thanks to regulatory framework which discouraged night-time activities.
"Most spaces are designed with daylight hours in mind, any future development should consider how the space feels at night for both safety and business opportunities in mind. If we want to build a strong inner-city, which Evolve Rotorua is very supportive of, we need to think about what happens after-hours too."