Glass not yet full for city

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 09:00 27/05/2014
C1 cafe
Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ

ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE: C1 Espresso's success is purely a reflection of a loyal following and hard work, says its owner.

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New research from the University of Canterbury says the numbers of restaurants, bars and cafes in Christchurch are almost back to pre-quake levels. But has the city's hospitality industry actually recovered? 

Every day about noon, a long queue forms without fail at a busy central Christchurch cafe.

No matter the day, the people come.

They come despite the fact there is nothing else around.

"We're a little island in the middle of nowhere," C1 Espresso owner Sam Crofskey said.

"We're below sea level, and we're trying to keep our heads up."

Findings of a University of Canterbury study released today claim that Christchurch's hospitality industry is back to 95 per cent of pre-quake levels.

Researcher and associate professor of marketing Sussie Morrish's ongoing study into the sector shows that at the end of February this year there was a total 907 restaurants, cafes and bars operating in the city.

She said a geo-spatial map constructed with the data has also debunked the theory that Christchurch is becoming a "donut city".

While many operating in the industry agree the city's hospitality industry is slowly rising from the rubble, there is no sign of a boom just yet.

Crofskey's venture was a finalist in last night's Christchurch Hospitality Awards, and is a formidable presence in the central city's cafe scene.

He believes the cafe's success is purely a reflection of a loyal following and hard work.

"We realised reputation was everything because when we lost everything, all we had was a brand," he said.

Morrish's study relies on a database sourced from the White Pages and online databases, and found just under 1000 venues in pre-quake Christchurch. She acknowledged there was likely to have been more venues they could not find traces to.

She continually monitors websites, press releases and the media to add new openings to her post-quake database.

Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury branch spokesman Clive Weston said venue levels were "absolutely not" near where they were before the earthquakes.

He said the data may be skewed by an increase in cafes, but there was still a desperate need for after-5pm venues. "If you think about what there was before the earthquakes - Sol Square, Manchester St, Poplar Lane - Victoria St, Addington and Lincoln Rd are insignificant," he said.

"Maybe if you count every single Mum and Dad cafe that's open . . . but that shouldn't be counted as what the central city lost after the quakes."

Ray White Christchurch Commercial owner Adrian Raine had not seen an influx of interest in the central city.

"There's been a quantum shift to the west . . . places like Addington and Riccarton have benefited from the demise of the central city," he said.

"It's a matter of finding space for them and being able to pay rents - proposed rentals don't align with the amount of foot traffic that's around."

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Colliers general manager Jonathan Lyttle said there had been "interest and commitment" by vendors entering the city centre, but levels were far from where it was pre-quake.

"Those outlying areas like Victoria St and Addington have reasonable amenities. They have a reason for the street to exist after 5pm - and that was always the difficulty in Christchurch.

"It won't take long for people to become excited and curious, and want to discover what's going on in the CBD."

- The Press

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