IN A YEAR that has seen restaurants closing in Ballina, a group of Buddhist monks last week gave their blessing to a new venture in town.
This year, diners have watched Shelly's on the Beach Cafe, Wicked, Pelican 181 and Stone and Grill (formerly Sandbar) close their doors.
The Italian restaurant in the Ramada hotel complex also closed this year, but re-opened with new owners soon after.
It was the former Wicked restaurant site on the corner of Cherry and Tamar Sts which re-opened last week as the Thai restaurant Red Wok, with the monks blessing the new venture.
Lek Kijsawat is the owner of Red Wok, and also owns the popular Lennox Thai Gardens.
She said many people head out to Lennox from Ballina to eat at the Thai Gardens, so she saw an opportunity to open the new restaurant in Ballina, particularly in the lead-up to the peak Christmas holiday trading period.
A former chef from the Lennox Thai Gardens, Ott Bunprachop has joined her at Red Wok.
Meanwhile, a development application currently is with Ballina Shire Council to redevelop the Shelly's on the Beach Cafe site.
There has been some interest in the Ballina Shire Council-owned restaurant in Fawcett Park, previously called Pelican 181, but its doors are still shut. A fire gutted the cafe building which housed Stone and Grill at Shaws Bay.