Coronavirus: Auckland central businesses urge people to return to offices to boost trade


Auckland cafés and restaurants are banking on people returning to city offices under level 2.

The country’s biggest city will move to alert level 2 at 11.59pm on Sunday after having been in alert level 3 for two and a half weeks.

Ika Bowl co-owner Ra Beazley said his three restaurants were on their way to making $1 million in revenue in 2019, but since the Covid-19 pandemic hit our shores, he has had to close one store and let go of half of his 16 staff.

Beazley said under the level 3 restrictions, revenue across his two central Auckland restaurants dropped by 80 per cent as both his Fort St and Wynyard Quarter shops heavily relied on office workers.

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“We’ve had hardly any cashflow for six months. We tried to stay optimistic but when level 3 happened, we ran out of steam,” Beazley said.

“There is no confidence in the corporate market. Businesses have adjusted to their staff working from home because of Covid-19, and they’re in no rush to send them back.”

Latest eftpos figures showed spending in Auckland’s CBD, for the week ending August 23, at restaurants was down by 90 per cent, compared to the same time last year.

Ika Bowl co-owner Ra Beazley says officer workers made up the majority of the customer base at his two central Auckland restaurants.

David White/stuff

Ika Bowl co-owner Ra Beazley says officer workers made up the majority of the customer base at his two central Auckland restaurants.

A recent survey by Colliers International showed 37 per cent of workers wanted to work remotely for 1-2 days per week and many had been before alert level 3.

Takapuna Beach Business Association chief executive Terence Harpur said working from home had hit the city’s other town centres hard as well.

“Think about the impact keeping staff home has on town centres like ours … We need everyone to come back to the office,” Harpur said.

“Seeing locals, visitors, and employees all returning to Auckland’s 50 or so town centres this week will be a sight for sore eyes. We really appreciate everyone’s support in advance,” he said.

Coffix Hurstmere owner Belinda Hall had not been able to operate her coffee shop in Auckland’s North Shore town centre Takapuna during level 3 because of the restricted space.

Hall said office workers made up a significant chunk of Coffix’s business.

“Before level 3 we saw the return of many office workers coming back to the town centre. Confidence was growing just before level 3 hit,” Hall said.

Eftpos figures showed spending in Auckland’s CBD, for the week ending August 23, at restaurants was down by 90 per cent compared to the same time last year.

unsplash

Eftpos figures showed spending in Auckland’s CBD, for the week ending August 23, at restaurants was down by 90 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Hall was prepared to operate under level 2, as she had done earlier this year, but expected a slow trickle of corporate workers.

“I’m expecting fewer office people back this week. There will still be a lot of people working from home and some companies have international policies that don’t allow them to work from the office,” Hall said.

“It’ll be hard to get back to pre-Covid days, but everyone’s in this together. I’ve seen a lot of sympathy for businesses and local businesses which has been encouraging.”

Beazley said as people returned to the city centres, he hoped customers would have more compassion for the small businesses operating under financial hardship.

“Don’t berate us if things aren’t exactly the same as before. Some of our suppliers haven’t been able to get shipments from overseas. Everyone is trying so hard.”

Auckland will move to alert level 2 at 11.59pm on Sunday after being in alert level 3 for two and a half weeks.

Abigail Dougherty

Auckland will move to alert level 2 at 11.59pm on Sunday after being in alert level 3 for two and a half weeks.

Beazley said his business was relying on a two-week financial buffer for things to get revenue to pick up, to avoid closing his Fort St store.

He said supporting local businesses in the city centres was just as important as the suburbs.

Level 2 rules

  • Restaurants and bars are allowed to open and can seat up to 100 people, but will not be able to serve groups larger than 10.
  • The three S’s are back in play: customers must be seated, separated, and have a single server.
  • Shopping will be allowed but physical distancing will need to be maintained at retail businesses, with people keeping at least one metre, but ideally two metres, between them.
  • Cinemas, stadiums, concert venues and casinos can open with more than 100 people at a time, provided there are no more than 100 people in a defined space and the groups do not mix. A cinema, for example, would be able to have different films showing, as long as there were no more than 100 people at each screening.
  • Businesses must display a QR code and have an alternative contact tracing system.
  • Face coverings are strongly encouraged if you are in close contact with others.

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