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Plans for new lease on life

It’s been the base of many hospitality businesses over the years, from Cafe Cecille to Coco Cafe.

Now, the council-owned Coronation Hall at Queen Elizabeth Park could be in for an upgrade, but it may never reopen as a cafe.

Councillors were due to meet yesterday afternoon to discuss the future use of the 111-year-old building as a bookable/leasable space with a non-commercial kitchen.

The Coronation Hall’s popularity has waxed and waned over the years since its opening in 1912.

The hall was hired out for weddings and other functions, and for many years a small kiosk ran from the front of the hall while the main body of the building was used as an aquarium.

It gradually became rundown and Masterton District Council struggled to find a use for it, but in 2001, a property developer refurbished the building and opened Cafe Cecille.

It was subsequently leased by other cafe businesses that have not succeeded long-term.

When the most recent lease ended last year, the premises were inspected, and several areas were identified as needing remediation.

While it is sitting unoccupied, Coronation Hall’s annual operational costs are about $11,500, which includes security and building maintenance.

Councillors have been presented with four options, three of which require upgrades to the facility: agree to the future use of Coronation Hall as a bookable/leasable space with a non-commercial kitchen [$49,850]; agree to continue to lease it as a cafe/restaurant with a full commercial kitchen [$77,395]; or agree to run the hall as a bookable space and separate commercial kitchen [$92,450].

The fourth option is to not upgrade the hall or open it for use.

Council staff have recommended the first option.

A report to elected members said despite recent improvements to the park surroundings that would complement a food and beverage business reopening, the facts remained several operators had not been able to successfully run a cafe from this location, and the park environment after dark is not conducive to people walking to and from the site.

“If council was to re-lease the hall for the purposes of a cafe, it runs the risk of finding itself being requested to support another cafe business which does not succeed.

“Council as a landlord needs to be sensitive to the fact that it cannot reasonably support a business to operate when there are other similar businesses paying commercial rates in relatively close proximity.”

Since the closure of Coco Cafe in May 2022, the council’s property officer has received occasional enquiries for one-off and short-term leases, such as using the space for music lessons and one-off functions.

Staff said if councillors agree to the first option, it would provide the potential for “maximum community use with the minimum of investment”.

The annual 2022-23 capital expenditure budget for all council’s rental properties, which includes Coronation Hall, is $52,000.

There is currently $43,360 still available in this budget. -NZLDR

    Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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