11 Mar 2021

Hospitality, events in limbo as govt holds alert level decision

From Checkpoint, 5:10 pm on 11 March 2021

Auckland's hospitality industry is on tenterhooks tonight on the eve of three big days of America's Cup racing and frustration is building.

After 11 days of no community cases of Covid-19, Cabinet met this afternoon to decide on whether to free the city from the shackles of level 2 - but Aucklanders will have to wait until tomorrow for their verdict. 

From America's Cup events, to restaurant bookings, to a rugby game at Eden Park scheduled for Sunday. 

The question everyone is asking is when will Auckland move to alert level 1 and why do we need to wait until tomorrow to find out?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the extra wait was necessary. 

"We apply time periods based on periods of infection and transmission once we have a case that's been in the community."  

Racing was underway for the America's Cup this week, with more set for tomorrow Saturday and Sunday.

For bars and restaurants along the viaduct a drop in alert levels would change their weekend. 

But without a heads up today, they were left waiting in frustration for tomorrow's news. 

"I just feel for government to be meeting today on this issue and then not telling us, it's so disappointing and I don't understand why they won't just let us know," said commercial and events manager at Soul Bar and Bistro Olivia Carter.  

The America's Cup is a big deal for them, but at the moment they can't prepare for what the weekend might bring. 

"It really impacts our business, how many people we can let in, bookings, you know we're turning away so many people at the moment, if we have the ability to increase that, that's huge for us."

At Eden Park, the Blues have their first game planned for this weekend but they still did not know if they could let all their fans in. 

Down the road is Holy Hop bar where fans usually grab a drink and bite to eat pre or post match. 

Though manager Fabratzio Candiani said they had a much closer connection to the game than that. 

"We get a lot of Blues players here that come with their families after every game, it's really hard to hold the levels under 100."

He said knowing what the alert levels would be today was the difference between being able to cater for everyone - or turning them away. 

And the arts were feeling the frustration too. 

The Arts Festival was due to run all of this month, but Covid's interruptions have pushed things through to April. 

Chief executive David Innes said it was a constant shift to try to make things work. 

"Obviously some of our big shows we've rescheduled those already and several through into mid-April." 

Level 1 allows them to support artists through ticket sales, at level 2 he said it was not enough. 

And even if level 1 was announced by tomorrow he said that was too late to change plans for shows and events this weekend - instead they would have to operate in level 2.