Alert Level shift taking things from bad to worse for businesses

Tourism and hospitality operators are already reporting cancellations as a result of the shift in...
Tourism and hospitality operators are already reporting cancellations as a result of the shift in alert levels. Photo: Getty Images
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult says the move to Covid-19 Alert Level 2 had made a bad situation worse for many businesses in the district.

Tourism and hospitality operators were telling him they were getting cancellations as a result.

"I've already heard of one conference that's been cancelled that was supposed to happen later this week", Mr Boult said.

"It just increases the level of pain.

"I understand completely the Government have no choice but to do what they're doing, but we didn't cause this and we're paying for it."

Meanwhile a long-time Auckland hospitality operator is warning that not all restaurants will survive the region's change to Alert Level 3 this week.

The industry has called for immediate and targeted government help, saying that unlike other businesses who can still trade at level 3, many in hospitality are now on zero income.

Mandy Lusk, co-owner of Fort St's Vivace, says staff left work in tears last night and many diners exited mid-meal, when their cellphones blasted a Civil Defence warning around 8.30pm.

Inner city restaurants had been booked to capacity by Valentine's Day diners, to the relief of operators who had reported dismal January turnover.

"We had no-one left by 9 o'clock and we should have been full until midnight," said Lusk. She co-owns Vivace with husband, Eugene Gibson. The couple estimated they lost $10,000 a week during last year's lockdowns and had refinanced their home to stay afloat.

"Everyone's just so scared now because we're back to being banned from trading for three days and there's no support at all."

Lusk says restaurants unable to trade under level 3 conditions should receive more assistance than businesses that can still operate with staff at home.

"A law firm, for example, can still bill their clients - but a little bar or restaurant has zero income ... If they close for longer than a week there is talk of some form of assistance, but we left with staff sobbing last night, going back to being locked in their tiny little apartments."

Government has previously indicated wage subsidies - currently set at $585 a week - would be available if lockdowns lasted longer than seven days, but hospitality operators say they still have to make KiwiSaver and holiday pay contributions.

"The real worry for all of us now is even if we did open on Thursday, no one will be in town," said Lusk. "Last night, all you could see in the street was people pulling up in their cars and getting chairs and monitors out of their offices. That went on for three hours."

In a recent small sample Restaurant Association survey, 65 per cent of Auckland respondents said January turnover was less, or significantly less, than 2020. Operators reported a lift after last year's nationwide lockdown, but said August's Auckland-only shutdown rocked confidence and the request to stay out of the inner city in November had impacted on Christmas party bookings. While some suburban restaurants were trading extremely well, that appeared to be at the expense of the CBD.

 - Guy Williams and NZ Herald

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