Nobody else for sole worker to call

Gone Potty owner Bridget Paape stands in her gift stop in Dunedin’s Moray Pl yesterday. PHOTO:...
Gone Potty owner Bridget Paape stands in her gift stop in Dunedin’s Moray Pl yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
If Bridget Paape gets Covid-19, it could be a "complete disaster" for her business.

The owner of Dunedin gift shop Gone Potty is one of many business owners facing the grim reality of what Omicron spreading through the city could mean.

Last week, there were fears close contact isolation rules might shut down Queenstown.

Now, as the virus spreads, those fears are being echoed in Dunedin.

The Otago Daily Times spoke to multiple businesses yesterday and many were confused about what the close contact rules meant for them.

Some believed their staff had to be stood down for seven days if they were exposed to Covid-19, while others believed it was 10.

As Ms Paape was the only person who worked in her shop, if she got Covid-19 it would have to close until she returned a negative test again.

"I’d be stuffed really ... who is going to pay the bills?

"It would be a complete disaster," she said.

Since the country went into the Red traffic light setting, Dunedin’s shopping centre had become a "ghost town".

In the past week, as Covid-19 case numbers had grown in the city, more people had started working from home which meant people were not "popping into the shop" anymore.

"It is just a nightmare," Ms Paape said.

That was a sentiment shared by Katrina Toovey.

The owner of restaurants No7 Balmac and Esplanade described the close contact situation as a "incredibly frustrating".

Both restaurants were operating at reduced hours depending how many staff were available to work on the day.

Some of Ms Toovey’s staff had to continue self-isolating even after testing negative, which was putting "huge pressure" on the remaining staff.

Traditionally, last week would have been one of the busiest weeks of the year as parents dropped their children off at university, but instead it was "very, very quiet".

"That is very tough on business when you are missing out on trade like that," she said.

Potpourri Vegetarian Cafe had to close on Saturday after three of its staff members were designated close contacts from a Castle St party.

Owner Hilary Procter said having staff as close contacts was "very hard", particularly having to weigh up people’s health and keeping the doors open.

Business was down "dramatically", especially with nearby office workers working from home.

Ms Procter believed dealing with a lockdown was easier because the store just had to close.

Now, the business had to contend with restrictions such as mask use, vaccine passes and QR scanning.

"It is very, very draining," she said.

Morning Magpie owner Troy Butler said that after the Red setting came into effect, business dropped by 20% overnight and it had been "ticking down ever since".

He did not employ enough staff to spilt into two teams and was instead having only two workers on at once rather than three.

It was inevitable that once one of the staff became a close contact, Morning Magpie would have to close temporarily.

Mr Butler had considered doing takeaways only, similar to the way the cafe had operated under Level 3, but he thought the hit to revenue would be too much.

Any Government support package would be helpful, but Mr Butler still had to pay the cafe’s lease and cover lost stock.

"It is very tough at the moment, that’s for sure," he said.