10 Sep 2021

Hospitality businesses say level 2 quieter this time, hope for bustling weekend

6:53 am on 10 September 2021

Cafes, bars and restaurants outside of Auckland have their fingers crossed for booming trade this weekend.

empty restaurant

Photo: Unsplash / Andrew Seaman

It is the first weekend under the new-look alert level 2 and its tougher rules.

And it has not been smooth sailing so far.

Dinner service on the first day at alert level 2 did not go nearly as well as Ōtautahi's ChiChi Kitchen owner Eugene Chang had hoped.

"I just had one customer, one regular came for dinner and that was it," he said.

The Italian restaurant sits in the heart of central Christchurch, but Chang said the streets were much quieter this time, post-lockdown.

"My restaurant is in the middle of town and there's no one around.

"I don't know what happened, but everywhere was quiet. There weren't even many cars on the street."

Under the tougher alert level 2 rules, no more than 50 people are allowed in the restaurant at one time, all staff have to wear face coverings and all groups must be seated one metre apart.

Eugene Chang said even if he could get a busy night, he would be running at 65 percent of the usual seating capacity.

He said each night, it was hard to know whether to open or not.

"It's like [asking] where am I going to be in five years' time?

"I don't know where I'm going to be in five years' time and I don't know what this restaurant is going to be in three days' time.

"It's very, very unpredictable."

Restaurant Association of New Zealand chief executive Marisa Bidois said she was hearing a similar story around the country.

"The conversations we're having with members at the moment, we're getting feedback about how quiet things have been at level 2 this time.

"I think the last time we were at level 2, we saw a lot more of the public getting out there and back into our businesses.

"But the mood definitely seems to be a bit different this time, and that's what we're hearing from businesses on the ground, around the country."

Marisa Bidois

Restaurant Association of New Zealand chief executive Marisa Bidois. Photo: Supplied

Bidois said it could be a fear of Delta.

"Something has changed, whether it's people worried about this different variant of Covid-19.

"We're unsure at the stage, but we'd really like to encourage the public that it's absolutely safe to go into hospitality businesses at the moment.

"We have everything set up in our businesses, we have spacing, all of our businesses are ready to go and are aware of the rules that need to be in place to keep customers safe."

She wants to see targeted financial help for the sector - including extending the wage subsidy to hospitality businesses operating under alert level 2.

Just north of Oamaru, local favourite Riverstone Kitchen is back open for business.

Floor manager Sarah Thompson said customers were following the mandated masking and contact tracing rules.

"I think distancing is the one thing that customers sometimes forget about," she said.

"But most customers do seem to be keeping their distance and I think people are being a bit more cautious this time around."

Thompson said it had not been as busy as she would have hoped, but things were looking up for this weekend.

Bidois said people supporting their local cafe or restaurant made all the difference.

"The public were so incredibly supportive of our local businesses the last time we were in this space, and we'd really love to see them out there again and doing their part to support the hospitality community."

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