Nelson’s Pip Karsten and Amba Waghorn also made the most of the new pedestrian-only zone on Trafalgar St with a girls night out. Photo: Brittany Spencer.

Trafalgar goes al fresco

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You could be forgiven for thinking you had walked into a European piazza on Friday evening.

Upper Trafalgar Street was lined with people all enjoying the balmy weather.

Upper Trafalgar Street was transformed into a piazza-like setting on Friday as the council experiments with making the area more pedestrian friendly.

Tourists and locals alike seem thrilled with the new concept that sees the area become an outdoor dining destination, complete with outdoor music, beanbags and new seating.

Nelson City Council approved the plan to close upper Trafalgar Street to traffic, the idea being to create an inviting, pedestrian-friendly dining space. It also offers restaurants within the zone significantly more room for outdoor seating.

“Al Fresco Summer on Trafalgar” will run until March 31 next year and will also be used to trial and test the feasibility of declaring the space a pedestrian mall for four months every summer.

Fantastic weather welcomed patrons on Friday evening and continued over the weekend, ensuring that Al Fresco Summer on Trafalgar got off to a flying start.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic,” says Alex Ridsdale from The Vic Mac’s Brewbar. “As we saw on Friday night, it was pretty busy straight away and I think it’s just a safe place during the day to bring your kids where they can run around and enjoy the sun.” 

Zoe Williams from neighbouring restaurant Burger Culture was also excited at the success of the concepts debut. “It was awesome, there was such a good atmosphere out on the street, it was just buzzing with people, like being in Queenstown or Wellington. I think Al Fresco Summer on Trafalgar just creates a bit more of a destination in Nelson for tourists and locals, more upbeat and fun.”

Terry Milton, owner and operator of Bacco, noted they had at least twice the number of outdoor diners than usual and were busy outside right up until 11pm on Friday night. “As long as Nelsonians embrace it and support the businesses who have put their money into making it happen, I think it will be great,” says Terry. “Nelson is synonymous with Al Fresco dining. It should have been done years ago because when you have days like this, everyone wants to be out in the sun.”

As Saturday evening went on, more and more people flocked to the dining hub and local musicians moved in to set up for the nights entertainment.

Nelson residents Cathy McBride and Karen Inwood were among those enjoying the atmosphere and echoed many on the night when they asked, why wasn’t this done earlier?

“The entire reason that we are here having a drink on a sunny Saturday afternoon is to celebrate the fact that the street has been closed off,” says Cathy. “It looks beautiful, we walked through here on Friday night and just thought it was completely marvellous, which is why we came back down today for a drink and a catch-up. I’m really excited that the whole summer is just going to rock up here.”

Former Nelsonian Rebekah Ward-Johnston also loves the fact that the setup also meets the needs of families wanting to have nice evening out.

“It’s a shame it wasn’t done 20 years ago when I was still here. I brought my daughter down here, she’s six years old and she was doing cartwheels along the paved areas. There is so much for freedom for her to run around and have a bit of fun.”

At the end of the trial period a report will be brought to council outlining the results of the trial and options for making the summer closure a permanent feature.