Mexican restaurant owner fires up at Rocky council
AS ZAMBRERO owner, Colin Dean, peers up at the tree planted in Denham Street's new garden beds, he points out people walking through and around the redevelopment construction site.
Mr Dean says that the Rockhampton Regional Council's planting of the tree in front of his store's awning sign has caused a major downturn in the foot traffic coming through his Mexican eatery's doors.
Mayor Margaret Strelow said Mr Dean's comments were "incredibly disappointing”.
She said the council spoke with him the day before he approached The Morning Bulletin and he had not raised these issues with the council.
"In fact, it was mutually agreed the sign would be relocated to make it more visible,” she said.
"The reality of the situation is the demolition of the rotunda has provided more parking spaces than what was previously available, it has opened up the street to make the shops more visible and it also allows for us to provide an appealing alfresco dining area for the restaurants and cafes to utilise.
"Denham Street itself is about to get much busier when it's completed later this month and reopened to two-way traffic.”
At the CBD store, Mr Dean says there has been a 60 per cent drop in sales and he has had to let go of nine staff members to keep his store afloat.
"We've closed Sunday because it just isn't worth opening for,” he said.
Mr Dean, 51, said he met with Cr Strelow two days before opening his East St eatery and wasn't aware the implementation of garden beds would include the tree.
"The sign cost 20 grand out of my pocket,” Mr Dean said outside his restaurant.
"I can't move it down here because that's where my other shop is going to go ... The sign is peeling but the guy can't repair it because he doesn't have access.”
Mr Dean said until six to eight weeks ago, the Denham St pathway was closed off, causing less exposure to his business.
Originally, he had plans to open an adjoining cafe next to his Zambrero store in March, but said that with the decline of customers coming into his store and the downturn of profits, he has had to place his expansion dreams on hold.
Despite the huge potential for the CBD's revamp, Mr Dean's enthusiasm is dampened by the financial hit he has taken, which adds to the pressure that was already mounting on him due to the economic downturn.
"The whole economy has kicked us in the bum three times with Yeppoon, Rockhampton and the CBD,” he said of his Zambrero locations.
"Yeppoon is a mining town and we lost 45 per cent of sales there, we've lost 40-50 per cent here, and we lost 65 per cent at Stocklands.”
Denham St's car parks have been closed for the redevelopment, and Mr Dean told The Morning Bulletin that he is concerned about young workers walking to and from parking spots on the waterfront.
"Safety is the biggest issue ... young girls walking to their cars at night,” he said.
Mr Dean is also concerned for his workers having to take out rubbish at night.
"The boys who are working here have been fantastic,” he says of the contractors.
"They say 'leave it there, we'll take it out for you'.”
A restaurant being built on Quay St is set to include a cafe, which Mr Dean fears will further impact the success of his own opening, as well as the planned link between Quay and East streets.
"If I knew this was happening I would not have built here,” he said.
"The mayor, everyone is saying we need to bring back East Street, revitalise this street. Why are we bringing everything to Quay St? Why do we put all the festivals in Quay St?
"If someone made me an offer, I'd sell tomorrow.”