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Restaurateur Mark Jessop is a fighter, but even for him, Covid-19 is a fierce opponent.

Mark and his wife Caroline bought Faigan’s Millers Flat Kitchen and Cafe in July, only to have its planned August opening delayed by the Alert Level 4 lockdown, but they took it on the chin and rolled with the punches.

More recently, Covid has left the couple reeling with the after-effects of the loss of four of six of their full-time staff who chose not to be vaccinated, including the head chef and front-of-house manager, who had been brought in as salaried business partners.

They have had to close the cafe doors two days a week because of staff shortages and turn away Christmas events, while still paying full salaries for four weeks to the four former staff members.

Mr Jessop also sold his Queenstown restaurant Prime last week, citing the uncertainty caused by Covid as the biggest factor in his decision

“It’s unlikely that there will be international tourists in Queenstown until July, even though they’re allowed in from May.

“To have to look eight months ahead until we get meaningful customers is too far ahead for me.”

It always had been hard to get staff at their Millers Flat cafe as there were few people in the valley and not many were qualified in hospitality, but having to pay people not to work for four weeks was unfair, they said.

The Government had said unvaccinated staff could be given outside work but that was not viable in a kitchen or cafe.

“Other’s people’s stances have flow-on effects for others.

“I’m a fighter and a battler .. but .. no staff, no customers.”

The couple were unable to attend family events or give time to their parents, and their staff were suffering similarly through being double-rostered.

They were dispirited and sad at what should be a busy and profitable time of year, but their fighting spirit remained, even if dulled by constant blows.

“We love the community and we love being here,” Mrs Jessop said.

“We know we just need to do the hard yards now and it will come right.”