Delta Level 2 has brought Central Otago and the Upper Clutha a little closer to normality but unlike last time the level was applied, there are fish hooks.

The Government last week announced a toughened version of the lower tier of restrictions, including tighter caps on gatherings and mandatory mask use for many indoor settings and those restrictions will continue until at least next week.

Some business owners spoken to by The Newsexpressed frustration at the new-look Level 2, which allows just 50 patrons at indoor venues, halving the capacity for hospitality businesses compared to last year’s Level 2 and reducing revenue for already struggling businesses.

Hospitality New Zealand Central Otago branch vice-president and general manager of The Gate complex in Cromwell Glen Christiansen said the restrictions were hard for businesses.

“This is all compounded with the Level 4 lockdown reducing all income to zero and we can’t get those trading days back and then Level 3 was just tough.”

The Gate complex included Five Stags Restaurant and Bar, Forage Cafe and Information Centre and the Harvest Hotel.

It also owned Super Liquor stores in Cromwell, Alexandra, Wanaka, Queenstown and Lorneville.

Mr Christiansen said Five Stags had a seating capacity of 79 people in the bar and 44 in the seated dining area.

Both areas had to be actively managed under Level 2 requirements and if hotel guests decided to book in-house dining in the restaurant, it could mean removing people from the bar area to accommodate them, he said.

A slew of cancelled events in the region resulted in a loss of accommodation bookings for the The Gate affected by border closures as well as affecting businesses in the wider area.

“People don’t understand international markets is 50% of our accommodation.

“[Event cancellations] affect not only our facility but the other cafes in the region supermarkets, petrol, all of these things as well.

“Our food and beverage outlets are high turnover and low margin businesses, so they’re always tight and we forget that.”

Many small businesses were “Ma and Pa” owner-operated businesses covering overheads and compliance costs which did not diminish during the lockdown period, on a reduced income.

“Everyone is very tentative. I think it was interesting on Breakfast [on Tuesday] some of those Auckland businesses are saying two weeks and they will have to makes some hard decisions, and I think that’s tough.

“We’re not broken-hearted, we’re not downtrodden but we are a service-based industry and we want to give the best service.”

Feels different . . . Kai
Whakapai Cafe, Restaurant &
Bar owner/operator Nick
Aubrey says Level 2 differs
from last time — there are the
obvious tougher restrictions
but people are treating it

Wanaka’s Kai Whakapai Cafe, Restaurant & Bar owner-operator Nick Aubrey said it was good to be operating but the town was visibly quiet and a lot of people had left.

“That is the challenge, a lot of the domestic tourists are back at home now.

“We are lucky for the locals with that local support, but it is still quite noticeable how quiet it is during the day.”

There was a positive trade-off, Mr Aubrey said.

“It is not what it was. A lot of North Islanders were down here for skiing. It is actually a great time to come skiing for the snow.”

The challenge for larger venues was the cap on customers but people were generally understanding, he said.

“It’s really good to see locals coming out and supporting and I think the confidence in town is a bit different.

“Everyone is a bit more laid back this time round. We know the economy is probably going to recover.”

In Teviot Valley, 103 The Store owner Sally Smith said this lockdown felt different from the last.

“It’s fine but last time everyone was getting out and supporting businesses, but this time the feeling is very different feels this is going to be the new normal.

“Obviously we have to accommodate, we’ve removed tables and chairs.”

Customers had adapted to wearing masks and seemed happy to be out and about, she said.

“We’re here doing what we always do and doing the best we can lucky we’re not in Auckland so we just have to be grateful for what we’ve got.”

Further down the valley, in Millers Flat, Faigans Kitchen and Cafe reopened during Alert Level 3 for the first time since closing when the nation was plunged into lockdown last year.

It was not the way new owners Mark and Caroline Jessop had planned to launch their new venture in the town. However, Mr Jessop said it had gone better than anticipated.

“We went to Level 3 because lots of people wanted us to we’ve had a lot of people come in for the community,” he said.

“The first few days under Level 3 we just did takeaways, and as luck would have it with Level 2 we had a scheduled power cut for four hours in the first morning. But that’s just life,” he said.

At the Waipiata Country Hotel in Maniototo, owner Mark Button said the conditions were “challenging”.

“Being a country hotel, you want people to come in but it’s the numbers that have been a struggle.

“Last time [at Level 2] we were able to have 100 [people], which was manageable. Now we are having to manage 50.

While he had outdoor space for more people, you “can’t have 50 people outside on a cold night”.

Through lockdown levels he and his wife, Nikki, had concentrated on offshoot businesses of their hotel, Waipiata Eats. The online ordering portal offers meals either on an evening click-and-collect takeaway menu, or a daytime delivery service and via the Waipiata Pie Company. The latter was a star performer for his business, Mr Button said.

“Two hundred went out to Auckland this morning.”