24 Jul 2017

How is Christchurch’s nightlife?

From Christchurch Dilemmas, 6:00 am on 24 July 2017

The Strip, The Grumpy Mole, Sticky Fingers, Boogie Nights - a few of the many cafes, bars and restaurants that were household names in Christchurch prior to February 2011.

The places people went to on a Friday night, where they met friends after work, or partied with the girls on a hens’ night.

Alex Brackstone lost three businesses in the earthquakes - His Lordship’s, Bard on Avon and the Vespa Bar.

Alex still owns the Vespa Bar, in its new High Street location, as well as the Pegasus Arms Restaurant & Bar and Morrell & Co in Addington.

She says re-opening the Vespa Bar in the central city was “a bit of a fingers up at the earthquakes”.

James Jameson, who first established Le Cafe in the Arts Centre in 1987, entered the central city scene in 2012, opening the St Asaph Street Kitchen & Stray Dog Bar.

It closed it 2015. On reflection, Jameson feels he was “a bit ahead of my time”.

He also believes the central city rebuild was too slow, and played a factor in the demise of his venture.

One of the first bars to open after the earthquake was Johnny Moore’s Smash Palace, originally in Victoria Street, and now cosily ensconced in High Street, close to the new Vodafone building.

“Christchurch has never been so up to date as it is now. I wish them all well, some will survive and some won’t, that’s the nature of it,” says Moore.

He and Brackstone would like to see more inner-city residents, “if you get the residents the rest takes care of itself”.

So what do they think of the new central city offerings? Brackstone is unsure, “it’s all a little bit clinical, the heart of the place has gone a little bit.”

Certainly, on a chilly mid-winter’s evening there is little sign of life, until our tour reaches the inner city’s newest offering, Little High Eatery.

The place is humming, and there’s a mix of patrons - family groups, couples, young and old.

Little High Eatery, in the new McKenzie & Willis precinct, is a food hall with a variety of eateries and cuisines.

“It feels like people have got a place to be creative here,” says Brackstone.