29 Oct 2020

Struggle street in Auckland CBD: 'It's been very, very hard'

6:48 am on 29 October 2020

Three weeks have passed since Auckland joined the rest of the country in alert level 1, but some businesses in the CBD say they are still on struggle street as customers haven't returned with the increased freedom.

Sunny Kaushal outside the bar and restaurant he runs, The Shakespeare.

Sunny Kaushal outside the bar he manages in July 2019. Photo: Photo / Jordan Bond / RNZ

The region jumped back into level 1 on 7 October after a second outbreak of Covid-19 prompted another lockdown.

Sunny Kaushal manages the Shakespeare Hotel and Brewery in the central city and is also the spokesperson for a group of business owners along Albert Street.

He was hoping for a boom on Tuesday after the Labour weekend, but the seats were left painfully empty with only one customer during the lunch period.

Kaushal said businesses on Albert Street have been hit by a double whammy of Covid-19 and the City Rail Link construction - his business has lost nearly $2 million over the last few years due to the disruption of the construction.

"It's been very, very hard."

Kaushal believes more events and festivals need to be put on in the city to attract people to the inner city as he was not expecting much from the America's Cup.

"Unless and until the international borders open Auckland City is not going to come back to normal."

Some more affected than others

Michael barnett is CEO of the Auckland Commerce Chamber.

Michael Barnett Photo: RNZ Pacific/Christine Rovoi

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said some businesses on Queen Street were being affected more than others - those towards the west side of the central city were hurting the most.

"Some are saying that [foot] traffic is down 40 percent, but if you look at the overall city the trend is in the right direction."

He said the construction in the CBD is a major hindrance for businesses, and has seen the area packed with "cordons and cones".

Barnett said there needs to be a plan to revitalise the city and it would make a big difference if workers returned to CBD offices.

Sunny, a retail worker at Kiwi Souvenirs on Queen Street, said the business has been dead since the first lockdown.

She said this week had been quiet, following a small number of outside visitors over Labour weekend.

Since the borders remain shut, she is not holding her breath for a summer rush either - unless international visitors choose to buy souvenirs to send back home.

Sunny said other souvenir shops are in the same boat, but if they were located on a side street they would be suffering even more.

She hoped business will pick up a little when the America's Cup starts in March.

Meanwhile, Jo McColl, owner of Unity Books on High Street, said the business was rushed off its feet by a "tsunami" of customers when the region went to alert level 2.5.

She said business was good and had returned to normal, with people beginning to buy their Christmas gifts ahead of time.

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