Emily Cogin and Kate Manley in the new cafe, Jaks Island, which has just opened on Bridge St. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Life breathed into Bridge St


Bridge St is getting a new lease on life as the notoriously tired part of town gets invigorated with fresh offices, cafes, bars and entertainment venues.

The Provincial Tavern building, which used to house The Verdict bar has been converted into a modern office. It is now home to a cafe and soon, two short term rental apartments.

The nightclub, Little Rock, will also soon move down the street into the Shark Club after that bar was sold to Corey Taylor.

The new bar will be split in two – with one half becoming “Taylor’s” which will be a modern bar with live music, pool and gaming machines. The other side will still be called “Little Rock”, but will only open on the weekends.

“We used to own a Taylor’s bar years ago and we wanted to move, but I couldn’t think of a new name so it seemed to be the best idea,” says Corey.

They hope to open at Labour Weekend after a refurbishment. The new Little Rock will open next April after the present lease runs out.

The Verdict, which shut down last year, was bought by design agency, Hothouse, and has been given a modern facelift after extensive renovations.

“The great thing is that we are in the middle of town,” says Hothouse director Allan Innes-Walker. “It should be a really nice, meaningful location.”

He says the building is rich with history and he wanted to keep some of those stories alive in it. He also wanted to show that investing in the centre of the city was important.

“Those who can buy property should add value. It’s a beautiful part of town. It is worth it.”
At the front of the establishment is a new express cafe called “Jaks Island”.

Ali Slotemaker and ex Cod & Lobster chefs Jessie Verhoef and Kate Manley are the brains behind cafe which does quick, healthy takeaway food and coffee.

Ali says after nine years working by herself she wanted to collaborate again. The three are working as a cooperative.

However, those expecting a traditional sit-down cafe will be disappointed.

“Nelson has enough of those,” says Ali. “This is more a city, corporate idea where you can get a coffee and something to eat and take away.”

Kate says it is a dream to be able to serve high quality, quick food to customers.

“It’s amazing, I never thought I’d be able to do it but then this opportunity came up.”

The developments come on the back of a new artists’ collective opening up on Bridge St, along with an 80-seat theatre called Ghost Light Theatre, which has just been granted $16,500 from the Nelson City Council to get started.

Across the road, the building which used to house Drifters is being converted into a jazz bar.

Laura Irish, director of Ghost Light Theatre, says it’s great to see Bridge St getting some of the attention it deserves. The theatre had been host to more than a dozen shows since it opened with new bookings coming in from across the country and the Tasman.

“It shows there is a demand out there,” Laura says. “Things are certainly happening on Bridge Street.”