Variety the key as business builds in Ipswich
SOME might consider it a rare sight in the Ipswich CBD, or at least something they haven't noticed for a fair few years.
It's 8pm on a Saturday in the Top of Town precinct, and the bars and restaurants are that full, you'd be hard-pressed getting a table if you haven't booked one already.
The opening of several bars and restaurants - including Dusty's Bar and BBQ and Heisenberg Haus more recently - has slowly brought people back into the city after dark.
While Ipswich still has its fair share of skeptics, those who have put their backsides on the line to make it work are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Dusty's Bar and BBQ owner Mark Dale said he'd experienced a great start to 2016 after a busier-than expected Christmas period.
"Speaking with other restaurant and pub owners, everyone is excited for the future," he said.
"The Top of Town is quickly turning into a place where you can have an American experience with us, or German at Heisenberg Haus, or Italian with Viva Italia.
"Then there are places like Fourth Child Cafe which has been very busy too.
"It gives people a reason not to just go out in Brisbane."
The lift in activity hasn't just been confined to the Top of Town.
Since opening early last year, Pumpyard Bar and Brewery owner Wade Curtis has enjoyed a strong following and the emergence of other restaurants and bars is only adding to the number of potential customers.
"I went for a walk around the Top of Town last Saturday and Dusty's and Heisengerg's were full," Mr Curtis said.
"I think the dining and drinking scene is picking up. A lot more people are thinking about going out in Ipswich and people are going out every week instead of just on special occasions.
"To be a precinct where people go out, you need to have a good range of offerings - when people go out they want to hit more than just the one place."
The QT has recently publicised the opening of the Thai On Ipswich on Limestone St, right across the road from established restaurants Tomato Brothers and Aaliya's on Limestone.
About one kilometre west, on d'Arcy Doyle Place, Raj Sharma's India Mehfil has recently undergone a major renovation and has been doing a roaring trade.
Boasting 72 beer taps, the new Tap'd Bar at the Prince Alfred Hotel has also been enjoying some big Friday and Saturday nights since opening in the latter half of last year.
Next door, the adjoining Char'd Restaurant is often packed out on weekends.
The chain of pubs and restaurants heading east is about to gain another link.
Passionate Italian chef Mario Grimaldi is taking a leap of faith by giving some much needed TLC to an old favourite on Brisbane Rd at Suicide Bend.
Formerly the Pancake Manor, many older Ipswich residents would recognise it as the old Bodega Restaurant.
Mr Grimaldi spent an entire month renovating the run-down building. He has come a long way and the restaurant has done strong trade in its first few weeks - but he still has a long way to go.
"When I first came here it looked as though the last tenants just picked up and left in a hurry," Mr Grimaldi said.
"It needed a lot of TLC, but I was drawn to this place because before I moved to Ipswich I had a dream that I would find a place just like this on the road to Brisbane."
Over four stages he hopes to build a fully insulated outdoor function area, as well as open up the old alley way back entrance for a cafe section.
With a Japanese restaurant and massage shop set to move into the adjoining building across the alley, Mr Grimaldi said he hoped his new restaurant, Casa Mia, would become a precinct of its own.
"As far as I'm concerned there is no competition," he said.