Fight or Flight For Auckland Hospitality

Hospitality businesses have threatened to remain closed and refuse to pay GST under Alert Level 2 unless the Government improves its support.

A group of 30 hospitality business owners, primarily in Auckland, held a video conference to discuss the implications of the new Delta 2 restrictions and what action was needed to ensure the survival of their businesses when the city eventually moves out of lockdown.

Under the new Delta 2 Alert Level (or level 2.5), indoor hospitality venues are limited to 50 guests, with social distancing increased to 2m.

In the video conference, many business owners said they would not open under Level 2 without more support from the Government, such as the continuation of the wage subsidy. Currently, when business open under Alert Level 2 they can no longer claim the wage subsidy.

Jefferson Bar's owner said many businesses would not survive the new restrictions and they need to tell the Government.

He said that government support offered in Alert Levels 3 and 4, such as the wage subsidy and resurgence support payment, should also be offered at Level 2. Mental health support is also needed.

Shaky Isles Coffee's owner said alert level 2 was the worst to be open because businesses don't get support from the governments, banks, or landlords, and it's still challenging to trade.

Ponsonby restaurant and bar Midnight Gardener would also remain closed at alert level 2 under the current requirements. The owner said he and other hospitality businesses would prefer to stay at level 3 and protest moving to alert level 2.5 by refusing to pay GST.

Richard Bagnall, co-owner of Longroom, said not opening in alert level 2 would send a strong message that the sector isn't doing well.

Bagnall believed the public would get behind the industry because they want more than takeaway coffee.

Last year Hospitality New Zealand discussed the level 2 guidelines directly with the Government, with some input from the Ministry of Health. Now, it is only the Ministry of Health dictating level restrictions with no commercial advice.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said the association had already expressed it did not accept the level 2 settings.

White is meeting with Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Minister for Small Business Stuart Nash on Friday, 10 September 2021, to outline the industry's strain.

Restaurant Association's chief executive Marisa Bidois had also been advocating for targeted support for businesses.

The association wrote to Robertson with suggestions for financial assistance, which it will be following up.