Business owners in the wider region of Wellington are worried they will be forgotten as the latest alert level 2 restrictions see weekend getaways and restaurant bookings cancelled.
The Wellington region moved to level 2 on Wednesday night after an Australian tourist who visited the city over the weekend tested positive for Covid-19 upon returning to Sydney.
The tourist had a jam-packed itinerary on his weekend trip to the capital, with the Ministry of Health identifying 19 locations of interest.
Among the places he and his friends visited were Te Papa, the Weta cave shop, Jack Hackett’s Bar, Floridita’s Restaurant and Lido Cafe. He stayed at the Rydges Hotel on Featherston St.
Although all these locations are in central Wellington, the Ministry of Health says everyone living in the Wellington region including the Kāpiti Coast and Wairarapa must abide with level 2 restrictions.
Co-owner of Little Square Pizza – a locally owned restaurant in Martinborough, just an hour and a half from Wellington City – Lucy McDougall said the feeling is all too familiar.
“With the weekend coming up we do have some uncertainty because the Wellington market is our biggest market over the weekends.
“Martinborough is all about hospitality and any given weekend, even in midwinter, we would have 500 to 1000 Wellingtonians wanting to eat in Martinborough and its lunch and dinner and breakfast, coffees also.”
She said whilst they were expecting to move to alert level 3 instead of 2, it was still not good news.
“Our dining room is very small. We only seat about 20 people and we would have to decommission about 15 percent of our ability to dine people indoors. We are lucky enough to have a lot of outdoor seating and our locals are really good at bundling up with coats and blankets if they want to come in when we’re busy.”
But one of her biggest worries is the uncertainty around how much food to order for the weekend.
“It’s been quite hard because a lot of our food stuff comes in from Wellington and we can only get that in on a Friday or some of them will deliver on a Saturday morning, so we don’t know whether we’re cooking for a normal busy weekend or a very quiet one if Wellingtonians are staying at home.”
McDougall said local businesses are bracing for the worst but hoping for the best.
“Their biggest concern is their staff. If numbers dropped considerably, we will be busy during school holidays, but until mid-September, this is our quietest period and if it’s an extended community locked down then there would have to be government assistance to help the businesses go through and to protect their staff.
“Staffing in Martinborough is always troublesome because we have such a small permanent population that to get front-of-house staff and chefs is always tricky. Covid is, you know, going to be dreadful.”
In nearby Masterton, it’s a similar situation.
The owner of restaurant Saint Sebastian, Caleb Kloeg is sitting tight for walk-in diners. He said since moving to alert level 2 bookings are sparse as people choose to stay home.
“When we went through the levels last year and whatnot, we really pushed takeaway and home delivery, which we still do, so I will definitely put something up on our social media page so people who, you know, want to eat know that we can do contactless delivery.”
Kloeg, who only opened his restaurant at the start of last year, is staying positive Wellington can move back to level 1 soon.
“We do have an incredible community as well. We are very lucky I guess in that respect being shown a lot of like love and support in the past. But yeah, I guess we just keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully things don’t get too serious.”
Meanwhile, in Carterton, Mayor Greg Lang said they were prepared for the alert level change.
“We’re very much a farming service town, so it’s pretty much business as usual for most businesses, and the ones that are probably more affected are hospitality and spacing tables out so there will be decreased numbers and patronage, but in the scale of things for the short time frame, hopefully, it’s all OK.”
He said the Ministry of Health is justified in including Kāpiti Coast and Wairarapa in the restrictions.
“We very much support the Wellington economy, lots of people travel every day through Wellington and in the weekends we’re Wellington’s playground so people are over here, so we support Wellington economically and vice versa, so I think it’s for that for safety and just the way things are there that we need to be part of it.”
Alert level 2 restrictions will remain stay in place until at least 11.59 pm on Sunday. Cabinet is meeting on Sunday morning to consider the alert levels.