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Alert level 2 familiar but concerning for Wellington hospitality industry

Restaurants and cafes in Wellington struggling to get back on their feet after the first lockdown say the return to alert level 2 is a familiar but unwelcome move.

A late night announcement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday put most of the country into alert level 2, with even tougher restrictions for Auckland under alert level 3.

Yesterday, Kim from R and S Satay Noodle House on Cuba Street said the city seemed emptied out.

“I would say it was more than 50 percent … it was only regulars that came in. That was real bad to be honest [and] I don’t think dinner will be great tonight either.”

At the Espressoholic cafe just up the street, Bhupinder Singh said it was quiet there, too.

His business was hit hard during the previous lockdown and if this one lasts much past Friday he might have to shut down, he said.

“It’s [all] a big risk – what do you do?

“How are you going to pay the bills, how are you going to pay all the rent – especially on Cuba Street where the rent is super super duper high?”

The alert level 2 restrictions mean no more than 100 people are allowed to gather.

Wellington music venue and bar San Fran co-owner Ziggy Ziya said it was not worth opening so they were shut for the rest of the week.

This week’s losses alone could end up costing the business about $20,000, he said.

Venues – which rely on lots of punters turning out for concerts – were among the most vulnerable in the sector and they were just going to have to ride it out, he said.

“The industry is going to get hit hard and hit first, so we are just going to sort of bunker down and see how it goes.”

Scopa and 1-1-5-4 Pastaria restaurants general manager Kieran Wallace said it was fairly simple to reinstate the measures used during the previous lockdown.

“Hospitality is a really adaptable business – we have to be – and having had a bit of previous experience in level 2 … we had honed all our systems for that.”

Under alert level 2 diners must be seated, kept separate and be waited on by a single server.

Because of this, Wallace expected turnover could roughly halve while the restrictions remained, but he was keeping optimistic.

“Like said we are flexible, we’re adaptable, we will always stay on the positive side of every change like that so we’ll make it work.”

Ardern announced that within a week all businesses and services must display the QR code for the government’s Covid-19 Tracer app.

She said more then 100,000 people downloaded the app in less than 24 hours since the new lockdown measures were announced.

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