Bar to open in former cinema

MAKING IT STRONGER: Workers strengthen the foundations of the Great Hall as the Christchurch Arts Centre is restored.
MAKING IT STRONGER: Workers strengthen the foundations of the Great Hall as the Christchurch Arts Centre is restored.

People will be able to enjoy a drink and a meal in the Christchurch Arts Centre by Christmas.

A new bar and restaurant will open in the former Academy Cinema building by December as part of the seven-year, $290 million restoration of the historic Arts Centre complex.

It will be the first time the public have been allowed back into the centre since the February 2011 earthquake damaged almost every building in the complex.

Arts Centre director Andre Lovatt said he wanted to bring activity back to the central city.

Rental revenue from a new bar would help fund the restoration. The $290m project has a funding shortfall of $50m, he said.

"We are looking at trying to do things like getting good tenants in there who can pay rent and contribute to the future of the Arts Centre," he said.

The centre will call for expressions of interest from hospitality businesses in May.

The successful company will be handed a strengthened and restored shell in August.

The fitout should be complete by December, Lovatt said.

Dux de Lux owner Richard Sinke has campaigned to return to his former Arts Centre base since being displaced by the February 2011 quake. He had not heard of the plans for a new restaurant and bar.

"I would have thought they would be looking for an arts cinema to go in there," he said.

The Academy Cinema was run by Rodney Cook, who died last month. His family are carrying on the business and hope to open a new arthouse cinema in Sydenham by late March.

Cook's son-in-law, Charlie Loughnan, said the family were disappointed they had not been informed of the plans.

"The Arts Centre has not approached us directly . . . The Academy Cinema has been there since 1976. It is disappointing that they haven't spoken to us about it," he said.

Lovatt said the centre was considering building an arthouse cinema in the former lecture theatres in Rolleston Ave.

Loughnan said the family had looked at that space for a cinema before the earthquakes, but felt it was impractical. "But we would look at any proposal in the Arts Centre. Never say never," he said.


The Registry – Corner of Worcester Blvd and Montreal St, $3.5m, open July, commercial offices. The Gymnasium – Former Academy Cinema, $2m, open December, bar and restaurant. The Clock Tower and Great Hall – Corner of Worcester Blvd and Rolleston Ave, $36m, open 2015.

The Press