Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Hospitality industry left languishing as Auckland retail allowed to open

“Bloody ridiculous”, “confusing” and “senseless” is how hospitality figures are describing the phased opening up of Auckland’s economy.

The Government today held its stance issued last week that Auckland move to level 3, step 2 at midnight on Tuesday. That means from Wednesday retail shops can open with distancing and masks, and outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed.

But restaurants and bars must remain closed.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said restaurants owners are “desperate” to reopen.

She said the rules for the reopening on Wednesday are very confusing and she questioned why people could shop in enclosed places like malls but a takeaway in the same mall still has to do click and collect.

“Customers can go to the mall and buy shoes but they have to click ‘n collect to eat in the food court of the same mall,” she said.

It was “ironic” that outdoor gatherings are to be extended to 25 people from different bubbles but there is no provision for outdoor alfresco dining at restaurants.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saidmovie theaters, gyms and other event places will remain closed.

Auckland is expected to move to the new traffic light framework on November 29. Which means all businesses can open and operate, Ardern said.

Luke Dallow, the owner of dumplings and beer restaurant Midnight Gardener, said it was “bloody ridiculous” that restaurants with outdoor dining weren’t able to reopen when other enclosed places like malls and retailers could open.

“We are just hamstrung that hospitality can’t reopen; it’s bloody ridiculous,” he said.

“I’ll be following all the Covid-19 safety protocols imposed by the Government not just for the customer’s sake but also for my staff.

“My restaurant is 90 per cent outdoor, we should 100 per cent be able to reopen,” Dallow said.

Dallow said since the beginning of this lockdown he’s lost nearly $100,000.

“I am still paying up rent, I am paying up wages above and beyond the wage subsidy, and I still haven’t been able to pay myself yet,” he said.

Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said Auckland needs a pathway to freedom that follows a sensible rationale.

“I see red – and it’s not a traffic light,” Barnett said. “What we can and cannot do under this relentless Level 3 stepdown defies logic.

“You can get Botox but not a haircut, do boot camp at the park but not drink your latte in a café courtyard, fly into the country double vaccinated and testing negative for Covid but you cannot leave Auckland. And now we can go shopping with masks and visit the zoo.”

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said: “If Aucklanders are going to be allowed to leave the city for the summer break then businesses will have a very short time to make up for the losses of revenue they have experienced over the level 3 lockdown.

“Setting a fixed date for reopening will allow businesses to start planning but also give diners some certainty to plan their Christmas events.”

“Auckland hospitality businesses are experiencing year on year revenue declines of 74 per cent on average so every day and every week counts. “The short-term nature of the current planning provides no certainty around when our businesses can plan to reopen so we would now like to see a specific date given for reopening.

“We have requested an opening of hospitality for outdoor dining at level 3.2 but are yet to receive a response to this suggestion,” Bidois said.

Retail gears up but wants clearer long-term plan

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said she was pleased with the retail business being able to reopen but a plan was needed beyond Red to get the Auckland CBD moving.

“However, with so much at stake, Government needs to set out a clear plan for recovery beyond the Red level,” Beck said.

“The cost to city centre businesses is close to $1b in lost spending since the start of last year. Even when we get to the new Red level, as things currently stand, there will be few visitors from outside Auckland and people still encouraged to work from home. This will be extremely challenging for our economy. We need to get to Green as quickly as possible.”

“With our three DHBs now at 90 per cent for first doses, and on track for the second later this month, and it’s imperative that we see a clear plan. This needs to include a confirmed December 1 (at latest) opening date which we and others have been asking for, as well as a pathway beyond the Red Level.

“This will bring urgency to the vaccination programme and much needed certainty for our businesses. Customers need to know that businesses will be open in December to make Christmas bookings. We also need to see more clarity around the date for opening our international border, so impacted sectors can start plan with some certainty.”

“We don’t want to see another incremental announcement next week. Instead we need a plan that sets out when our businesses can open, plans for MIQ, plans for the domestic and international border, and activation funding to support the recovery of our city centre,” she said.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said, it was a good news that the Government has confirmed most retail stores in Auckland will be allowed to open from Wednesday, and that a further review will happen next week.

“Retail is a relatively safe environment, so long as customers wear masks, and retailers are getting ready to open their doors on Wednesday while keeping customers and staff safe,” Harford said.

“After 12 weeks of enforced closure, businesses will be hoping that the re-opening will reinvigorate the sector. Customers will need to wear a mask in store and will be asked to keep a two-metre distance from others, and Retail NZ is asking everyone to stick to the rules as stores re-open on Wednesday to help keep everyone safe. We expect customers will be cautious, at least in the first stages of opening, but it is good news that they will be able to get back into store.

“Businesses such as personal services and café still need to be closed, however, so there will be ongoing are now looking ahead to Step 3 of the Auckland Roadmap.The Government has signalled that this will be reviewed next week.

“We need to be focused on managing risk rather than closing businesses, and it just doesn’t make sense that beauty therapists and hairdressers must still be closed, while physios and dentists have already been open for weeks,” Harford said.

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