Ballroom Cafe forced to close

Last updated 09:00 08/11/2012
Ballroom cafe
AMY JACKMAN / The Wellingtonian

Closed: Owner Kathy Smith packs up after The Ballroom Cafe closed three weeks ago.

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The Ballroom Cafe in Newtown has closed and the owner says Wellington City Council's roadworks outside are to blame.

The heritage cafe, which opened in 1994, closed last month.

Owner Kathy Smith said that before the Adelaide Rd and Riddiford St intersection upgrade she had not considered closing.

"I was thinking about opening for more hours, but what's the point when people can't get in?" she said.

"It became obvious I wasn't going to make it.

"Yes, there's an economic downturn, but we got hit hard. They are still digging up the road outside. There's no parking because the construction is taking over it."

Ms Smith said the decision to close was difficult.

"There comes a point where you see it's not working.

"In the end I did what I had to do," she said.

"It's hard, really hard. You lose a lot of money, but it's the emotional side that's harder. You put your heart and soul into a place.

"If I'd known the redevelopment was going to be this disruptive I would have left long ago.

"The sad thing is in the long term, once this is all done, the prospects are good.

"It's a great night place, but I don't have someone to bankroll me until the council finishes."

The intersection upgrade began in May and is scheduled to be completed at the end of November.

"We were a viable business before all this. I easily lost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

"There was one day when we had to close at lunchtime because they were digging in front of our doorway.

"They had a screen up right against the doorway and we couldn't even get in or out ourselves."

Council networks manager Stavros Michael said the council tried to keep the disruption to a minimum.

"In our street construction projects we are required to keep access to businesses and residences open as far as reasonably possible," he said.

"There was only one occasion, for about two hours, when access to the cafe was blocked.

"This was when workers had to work on the footpath directly in front of the door.

"There were a small number of instances when workers parked vehicles in the spaces outside The Ballroom Cafe, but this was necessary for the work to be done.

"The council made it clear to the contractors that their vehicles were not to unnecessarily park in the spaces."

Ms Smith said her opinion of the council was low after discovering there was no compensation for the loss of business.

"The council is just not interested.

"And it's not just us. Other people in the area have been hit hard."

Mr Michael said the council had a right to undertake maintenance and upgrade work on public assets.

"We have always acknowledged that major work near private businesses and properties does cause disruption and every effort is made to minimise the effects."

The Ballroom Cafe was a well- known night haunt in the 1950s as The Five Star Ballroom. It has also been a boxing club, the meeting room for the Miramar Rugby League team and a pool room.

Since it opened as a cafe it has been a popular venue and has hosted parties, annual dinners, book launches and art exhibitions.

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- The Wellingtonian


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