12 May 2020

Level 2: Delay in reopening bars a 'kick in the guts'

11:34 am on 12 May 2020

Bars and music venues will be doing it tough, owners say, but the level 2 travel rules are good news for tourist spots like Rotorua.

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Photo: AFP

Restaurants and cafes will be able to reopen from Thursday when the country goes into level 2, but bars have to wait until 21 May to start trading. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this was because bars posed the biggest risk in the spread of Covid-19.

Wellington bar owner Matt McLaughlin, and regional president of Hospitality New Zealand, said the news was unexpected and "a bit of a kick in the guts".

"Every day we're closed, every week we're closed more jobs are going to go."

He told Morning Report with $40m per day in lost revenue across the industry, up to 30-40 percent of the hospitality industry could fold with the loss of more than 60,000 jobs.

He accepted that bars were a risk in the spread of Covid-19, but said if that meant they were required to close they needed industry-specific help.

Once bars could start trading again there would be two weeks left of the wage subsidy, so that needed to be extended, he said.

"Our market has shrunk so much, the fact that we're open doesn't mean we're making any money."

McLaughlin wants to see specific help for the hospitality and accommodation industry in Thursday's Budget.

In restaurants and cafes everyone must be served a meal, not just drinks, and has to be seated. Serving staff must stick to specific tables. No more than 10 people are allowed in any one group and and no more than 100 in the restaurant. with safe spacing between seated groups.

Music venue

Venues can have no more than 100 people in total, excluding staff, keep groups 1m apart and record attendees to ensure contact-tracing can be done if needed.

The Powerstation in Auckland won't be opening its doors for at least 12 to 16 weeks, owner Peter Campbell says.

With so many acts coming from overseas there won't be to a regular trading pattern until the end of the next year, he said. Artists' priorities would be festival circuits in their own countries.

People are going to have less money to spend, and businesses will have to scale back accordingly, he said.

Domestic tourism

Under level 2, domestic travel will once again be allowed, including for tourism - which is good news for Rotorua where tourism is the city's largest employer.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the tourism sector in the region are working together on what will reopen.

The Redwoods Treewalk is re-opening on Thursday and Te Puia is working out how they open it for domestic tourists.

"They're all talking in town about the price point ... we've got to make it affordable."

'Gradual reopening' of cinemas

New Zealand Motion Picture Exhibitors' Association spokesperson Mark Christensen said major film releases have been pushed back until late July because of Covid-19 and that will affect how many movie theatres open this week.

"There will be some cinemas opening this week but we've got a two-month gap before we start to see the first of the new studio blockbusters that have been pushed back."

The smaller independent and boutique cinemas will start to open quite soon, he said.

Theatres will be blocking out every second seat, sticking to a maximum of 100 people, and sessions will have to be spread out so there's no crowding in the foyers.

NZSO to perform together but no live audience

Arts organisations are welcoming the prospect of alert level 2 but there are a few logistics to grapple with.

With a 90-member orchestra on stage, for example, the audience could be no bigger than 10.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra interim chief executive Peter Biggs told Morning Report they hope to return to Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre next week - but without a live audience.

Players had been livestreaming from home and were looking forward to streaming concerts of the full orchestra.

Auckland Theatre Company chief executive Jonathan Bielski said they'll start rehearsals in level 2 but won't be performing.

"This is an incredibly important emotional and creative step for the company to be able to get the actors and the artists back in the rehearsal room," he told Morning Report. They hope to share rehearsals online of The Master Builder - a new version of the Ibsen play by artistic director Colin McColl.

Bielski said the inability to stage events is a very serious compromising situation for the theare, financially and creatively.

The wage subsidy helped it keep paying wages at the full rates, and he wants to see that extended, and hopes there is something specific for the sector in the Budget.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

  • Live Covid-19 updates from New Zealand and around the world on 12 May
  • Takeaways are back - and so is the waste caused by disposable packaging
  • Covid-19: Strained social services brace for even further demand
  • Covid-19 alert level 2 details: What you need to know