Za Za Bazaar saved from demolition as plans to replace building with offices refused

The popular buffet restaurant on the Harbourside has been under threat since developers first applied to knock it down in 2021
An artist’s impression of how the Za Za Bazaar site would have looked had plans been approvedAn artist’s impression of how the Za Za Bazaar site would have looked had plans been approved
An artist’s impression of how the Za Za Bazaar site would have looked had plans been approved

Bristol restaurant Za Za Bazaar has been saved from demolition after councillors refused plans to replace the building with offices.

The popular buffet restaurant on the Harbourside employs more than 200 staff and has been under threat since developers first applied to knock it down in 2021.

CBRE applied for planning permission from Bristol City Council to demolish the two-storey building on Canons Road, home to Za Za Bazaar and the BSB Waterside Bar. They would replace it with a four-storey office block with shops, bars and restaurants on the ground floor.

These plans were refused by the development control B committee on Tuesday, June 13, due to concerns over the loss of the restaurant and the height of the new building. Za Za Bazaar claims to be the country’s largest restaurant, and has a wide diversity of customers.

Speaking to the committee, Kevin Hydes, representing Za Za Bazaar, said: “The proposal would result in the closure of Za Za Bazaar, and the loss of an established and popular restaurant. This would cause over 230 jobs to be lost. These are not just numbers but represent real local people.

“It would also remove a facility where Bristol’s diverse community can come together to experience cuisine and culture from around the world. This is why the application is opposed by the local community, with over 400 email objections and a petition with over 2,000 signatures, and opposition from groups including the Punjabi Forum, Somali community, Sudanese community, Avon Indian Association, and the Multi Faith Forum.

“In forward-thinking, diverse Bristol, it cannot be a sustainable approach to demolish a building with years of life left, putting over 230 people out of jobs and extinguishing an important local business and community facility.”

Planning officers recommended the committee refuse permission due to the height of the new offices, which would block important views including of the cathedral, as well as environmental concerns about the wasteful demolition of a building only 30 years old. Za Za Bazaar also brings thousands of customers a week to the area, boosting the local economy.

Some other local businesses welcomed the planned investment and were supporting the proposals. Developers would have also widened the pavement on Canons Road and planted new trees. Canons Road, which runs behind the Watershed cinema and Za Za Bazaar, was described as “an unwelcoming place” currently, but would have been extensively revamped.

Clare Reddington, chief executive of the Watershed, said: “We’re fully in support of this application. The setting around the Watershed is tired and really needs investment. The scheme would bring a total revamp of the public realm, with extensive tree planting, seating, lighting, resurfacing and an 850% biodiversity net gain.

“The lane behind the Watershed, Canons Road, is currently an unwelcoming place. It’s made for bins, parking, deliveries, and cars, but it would be transformed into a safe and attractive area with active frontages and widened tree-lined pavements.”

Canons Road at the rear of Za Za BazaarCanons Road at the rear of Za Za Bazaar
Canons Road at the rear of Za Za Bazaar

Stephen Davies, from Padmanor Investment Limited which owns two buildings neighbouring U Shed, added: “Bristol Harbourside’s appeal has diminished. As a father of two young children, I used to bring my kids to Millennium Square regularly, but I can’t remember the last time I did because in recent times my daytime visits tend to be met with empty beer bottles, other rubbish and beggars.

“Nearly 400 office workers will significantly increase spending in the local area’s bars and restaurants, critically during weekdays when it’s quieter, and weekends. A new attractive office will help sustain those businesses across the week, which in term means more regular and secure employment for staff, especially those with families who can’t work weekends.”

But the committee questioned the need for more new offices. Seven councillors voted in favour of refusing permission for the plans, while two voted against refusing.

Voting to refuse were Labour councillors Fabian Breckels, Katja Hornchen and Amal Ali; Liberal Democrat Andrew Brown; and Greens Lorraine Francis, Guy Poultney and Ani Stafford-Townsend. Voting against refusal were Conservatives Richard Eddy and Lesley Alexander.

Green Councillor Lorraine Francis said: “Why would we advocate ripping down a 30-year-old building to start again from scratch and build something that nobody can substantiate? The Centre of Bristol is not just an office block, and it should be accessible to everyone. I’ve lived in Bristol all my life and I’ve been going down there from a very early age. We don’t need another luxurious office block right in a prime position.”