Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Hospitality and retail businesses plead Government to set a reopening date

Auckland retail and hospitality businesses are desperate for the Government to announce an opening date so they have time to prepare ahead of the busy November/December period with the city still under heavy Covid restrictions.

Businesses fear any announcement will come too close to Christmas and they won’t have enough time to plan.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the Government needs to give more than just a couple of weeks’ notice and set a date as a reference point, even if it still has to change.

“And if there are some changes as we get closer to that date, then we can work with that along the way. But we need a line drawn to say this is when we’re reopening,” Bidois said.

“We’d like to see some dates, we’d like to see a line drawn to say that Auckland will be reopening by this date we need some certainty for planning for our businesses.”

She said the uncertainty of not knowing the future was the most difficult thing for any business to deal with, especially amid the traditionally busy times of November and December.

“We need to be able to take forward bookings, know whether we will have our Christmas rush so we can plan our rosters and have a plan in place for what may lie around the corner. The uncertainty is one of the most challenging parts of pandemic response,” Bidois said.

“The Christmas parties are where many of our businesses will be extremely busy. But there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what’s happening in that space.

“Forward bookings for Christmas parties have dropped right down, especially in Auckland,” Bidois said.

The Cabinet met today to consider a change to alert levels in Auckland, Northland and Waikato. The Prime Minister will make an announcement at 4pm today.

With the number of Covid cases increasing director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said a level 4 circuit-breaker had been proposed and “actively considered”.

“That’s something that has been proposed … it’s something we’ve actively considered and importantly I’ve asked for advice from my team but also from the public health teams on the ground in Tāmaki Makaurau that’s informed our advice to the prime minister,” he said this morning.

“It’ll be definitely be devastating to hospitality to go back to alert level 4,” Bidois said.

Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said it was crucial for the government to give “key metrics” as to when and to what extent businesses could trade again.

These metrics would give businesses clarity and some certainty around their future.

“If the Prime Minister gave a roadmap with some key metrics … [and] what those key metrics the government was making all these decisions on,” White said.

“It’s really important that Ardern gives us a strong plan ahead because business owners will be making some pretty tough decisions in the next few weeks,” White said.

“Having the clarity will be massive, so there can be a lot more planning.”

Auckland being in a lockdown just doesn’t affect its economy but it also has a trickle-down effect on the regional economy, she said.

Normally during holiday season, many Aucklanders travel domestically and if they can’t leave the city, regional businesses will starve from not having any customers.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said it was “absolutely critical” that there was a date set for reopening as soon as possible and the Government needs to show some leadership.

“Businesses don’t operate on a week to week cycle.

“As we’re coming into the busiest time of the year for retail, people need to get a sense from the government as to the likelihood that things will be open or not.

“The reality is if you’re a small business owner you’re really struggling to understand whether you will be able to open it before Christmas or not.

“And I really think the government needs to show some leadership, set a date, and let everyone know that they need to get vaccinated before that date,” Harford said.

He said only half of Retail NZ members are expecting to hit the sales target for the current quarter.

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