Struggling Richmond restaurant owner buoyed by boost in business
Richmond restaurant owner Pobsak Srithong says business is up 30 per cent since he spoke publicly about the financial struggles he faces while the main street is upgraded.
Srithong was heartened that many people had made the effort to dine in or take away meals from his Queen St business, Poppy Thai, since his story was published on Saturday.
"Me and my family feel like: 'Whoa, we're not alone'," he said on Tuesday.
On Saturday night, 20 people dined at the restaurant near Nelson. It was usually fewer than 10, he said.
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Another 12 people sat down to eat on Monday night.
"Before, [there were] no customers."
Many other people had made bookings or bought take aways.
Srithong last week estimated sales were down by about 50 per cent at his restaurant, which sits in the midst of a Tasman District Council-funded upgrade of the main street that is weeks behind schedule.
It was similar situation for fellow businessman Garry Higgins, who last week said his sales were down about 55 per cent, compared with the same time last year.
Higgins' business, Richmond Roast House & Cafe, is in the first stage of the section of Queen St that is being upgraded. That first stage has been completed and was opened at the weekend.
Poppy Thai is in the second stage. Work is now under way on the second and third stages of the planned six-stage $11 million upgrade.
TDC project manager Jeff Robinson said the project was running behind schedule, which had forced the team to "change the way it approached aspects of the upgrade".
Originally, the contractor, Downer, was limited to working in a single stage at a time to reduce the overall disruption to the street. However, "speed is our key focus now".
"So Downer are working across both stages two and three ... which is a more efficient way of working for them and allows faster progress," Robinson said. "We're aware this is more disruptive for businesses and the public and we sincerely apologise for that. However, the message from businesses to us is pretty clear and that is: 'Complete the work as quickly as possible and move on'."
It was a point backed by Adrian's Barber Shop owner Adrian Bradley, who called for more manpower.
The progress had been slow and "painful to watch" at times, he said.
Bradley added that his barber shop was a destination business and most clients were "good, loyal customers".
"We're down in numbers but we'll survive."
The upgrade would be good overall and hopefully help protect the Queen St businesses from flooding, Bradley said.
Robinson said stage two of the upgrade, from Noel Leeming to the Cambridge St intersection, was expected to open in mid-September.
The upgrade includes the replacement of ageing and undersized pipe infrastructure below the CBD section of Queen St and lowers the centre of the road to reduce the risk to businesses of flooding. It is part of a wider central Richmond infrastructure project for which TDC has budgeted $26.8m in its Long Term Plan 2015-25.