Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

Hospitality groups and suppliers are toasting a drop in coronavirus alert levels but operators don’t expect a sudden rush to restaurants and bars.
The Government’s covid resurgence supplementary payment offer won praise but experts say patrons might take time to embrace looser drinking and dining rules.
Outside of Auckland, a return to alert Level 1 meant business as usual, although with hugely reduced foreign tourist numbers.
But level 2 restrictions in the country’s biggest city could present some obstacles to Auckland hospitality firms keen to recoup lost revenue.
“For hospitality it’s pretty challenging still, but overall it’d be great to see people back in the city,” Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said.
“It’s been a pretty tough few days.”
She said last Sunday’s announcement about entering level 3 tempered what had been a buoyant weekend.
The boom Auckland hospitality just started enjoying with the Prada Cup, Pride Festival and Valentine’s Day ended abruptly.
“Now we’re heading into level 2 which is obviously heading in the right direction but it’s still difficult,” Beck added.
The Covid resurgence subsidy payment offered some hope, North Shore bar and restaurant operator Kevin Schwass said.
The supplementary payment applied to companies which could demonstrate a 30 per cent revenue drop over a seven-day period.
“Most hospitality businesses would qualify for that easily,” the owner of Florrie McGreal’s Irish Pub in Takapuna said.
“Level 2’s a bit weird because a lot of people don’t want to come out because of the restrictions,” Schwass added.
Customers under level 2 must be seated, practice physical distancing, and only have one server per table.
Dance floors are off-limits and patrons cannot stand around tables.
Schwass said for gastropubs, the bar business was as important as the food business, so these restrictions would impact revenue.
In Wellington, Trinity Group director Jeremy Smith welcomed level 1 but said many of this week’s cancelled bookings at hotels and restaurants could not be reinstated.
Smith also said customers would be cautious and take time before adapting to the less restricted environment.
“February’s been a fairly quiet month so we were very worried if we’d be at level 2 over the weekend.”
Trinity Group owned venues including El Horno and The Arborist Bar, and Smith said he hoped level 1 meant people might stay out a bit later.
He believed the Government made the right call about alert levels.
“I’m pleased to see that they’ve gone for a sensible approach that’s low-risk and good for business.”
Groups supplying the hospitality sector also welcomed alert level reductions but said challenges remained.
Previous lockdowns suggested consumer behaviour lagged behind alert level reductions, Spirits New Zealand chief executive Robert Brewer said.
“People are reticent about coming back. And when they do, their behaviour’s different.”
That would impact hospitality businesses and their spirits suppliers, Brewer said.
He said the spirits industry’s thoughts went out to hardworking restaurant and bar owners and staff.
“They will continue to be doing it hard.”
Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said fruit and vegetable growers should now be able to sell more produce.
“Going to level 2 not only reduces the cost and the burden of growers … it also means you’ve got more outlets you can supply.”
Only about 10 to 15 per cent of locally-produced vegetables were exported, so growers relied on local buyers, and Auckland’s restaurants were a significant market.
Level 3 had made doing business more difficult, he said.
Restrictions on travel across regional boundaries during lockdowns had sometimes been problematic for growers and drivers, Chapman added.
But he said the Government had listened to some industry concerns, such as requests to let independent fresh produce retailers open at level 3.
“From March last year, there were some lessons, and they’ve been learnt.”
Auckland is expected to stay at level 2 and the rest of New Zealand at level 1 until Monday.