Hospitality industry battles on through Alert Level 2

Speight's Ale House Ashburton owner Tony Potts prepares to open under Level 2 restrictions.

For some in the hospitality industry there has been a stark difference between lockdown this year and lockdown 2020.

Owner of Speight’s Ale House Ashburton Tony Potts said lockdown 2020 was financially better because they got a lump sum for wages and knew it was going to last around seven weeks, so could plan ahead.

“Even last year after covid it wasn’t a bad year, we refurbished the bar among other things,” he said.

But all the profit made in 2020 has been wiped out in a few weeks of lockdown this year.

“This latest lockdown was financially devastating, we try to pay our 18 staff members full wage, the wage subsidy doesn’t cover anything near that.

“At the moment, beyond this week, I can’t see we are going to be offered anything. Hopefully we do get something because having a big restaurant and only being able to half fill it means we have half the income.”

Mr Potts has had the business for just over five years, and things were going well up until the 2020 lockdown.

The new rules under Delta Level 2 have added to the strain on the hospitality sector.

“It’s a juggling game, making sure you don’t have more than 50 people, it is difficult trading.

The new rules around masks have added another challenge for hospitality workers.

“This time staff are finding it unusual that everyone can sit in here without masks because they are eating, yet staff have to wear them, and even the kitchen staff have to wear them, you can imagine what its like in a hot kitchen with masks on.” Mr Potts said.

The Ashburton Licensing Trust who lease the building to Mr Potts have been supportive.

“The trust have been very good, they gave us a discount for last month because we couldn’t trade at all.”

Once things come back to normal Mr Potts hopes people will continue to support local.

“We really appreciate our local customers, we are not as reliant on tourists here, it is the locals in Ashburton who have supported us and we appreciate that.”

Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury president Peter Morrison said the industry in the South Island was grateful to be open, but it was a challenge.

“It is too restrictive to operate at that level, you can’t make money doing it that way,” he said.

Communication from the government could have been better when we moved to Alert Level 2.

“The government took too long to get the public health order out, it took five days to let us know the exact rules. It’s all very well to put us in Level 2 and offer the wage subsidy, but it is the other costs that kill a business. This week there are two more motels closing in Christchurch, and a cafe in Darfield.” Mr Morrison said.

At the start of September Hospitality NZ sent a letter to government ministers asking for targeted relief for the industry.

“They were sympathetic but couldn’t give us any more, and we may have to go back to them, they are not interested in having sector purpose subsidies.

“Everyone in the industry needs to stay strong, and hopefully we get through this,” he said.

By Daniel Tobin