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A Southern convenience store chain have been left confused following a last minute rule change about what food products could be sold to essential workers during Alert Level 4.
On Thursday last week, service stations and dairies were told through multiple channels, including Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) communication, that they were allowed to sell hot drinks and food to essential workers during the Alert Level 4 restrictions.
However, a rule change on Monday night meant that had to be stopped.
Under the rule change, dairies and service station were still allowed to sell pre-packaged hot food but not coffee.
MBIE confirmed yesterday the rules around what food and drinks could be sold at Alert Level 4 changed on Monday night.
The guidelines say food and drink can be bought and sold, but cannot be prepared, packaged or consumed on site after ordering.
For example, barista coffee cannot be sold, but hot pies in bags can be sold from a warmer.
A ministry spokeswoman said the rule change came about following evidence of queues for made-to-order food and beverages in some locations.
People were also entering premises for the sole purpose of buying coffee and hot food, she said.
Night’n Day’s Dunedin convenience stores stopped selling hot drinks yesterday following the rule change.
They were still selling pre-packaged hot food items.
Night ‘n Day chief executive Matthew Lane said the rule change was ‘‘confusing’’ and ‘‘disappointing’’.
Mr Lane believed the general public supported essential workers getting their coffee.
‘‘For nurses, truck drivers, midwives, doctors and everyone else working long hours, the coffee was for them to have something to look forward to and a bit of a luxury during these times,’’ he said.
There had been a huge amount of support from people after the rules first changed on Thursday but customers were frustrated on Tuesday following the rule change, Mr Lane said.
The Motor Trade Association, which lobbies for the vehicle industry, expressed its frustration and confusion over the rule change and said it contradicted guidance given at the beginning of lockdown.
Association chief executive Craig Pomare told Stuff its members were hurting and they needed certainty, timely communication and consideration about their plight from the Government and its agencies.
“This sort of late in the day flip-flop is incredibly disappointing.
‘‘How are businesses meant to operate when the rules keep changing?’’ Mr Pomare asked.
Service stations had been following all the hygiene rules and observing social distancing requirements when selling drinks and unpacked food since the country went into Level 4, after the association sought clarification from MBIE on August 19.
The association alerted its members to the change yesterday morning but also intended to contact government officials to challenge the decision, he said.
“We want to understand the grounds for making this change now, a week into lockdown, and when MBIE was planning to communicate it.”