Hospitality sector braces for impact as bars reopen today

The hospitality sector is bracing for impact as bars prepare to reopen their doors today.

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While many businesses have made it past lockdown, there’s still a long road ahead to recovery. Source: 1 NEWS

Hospitality NZ’s Matt McLaughlin said while many businesses have made it past lockdown, there’s still a long road ahead before the industry recovers.

A bar owner himself, he is eager to open the doors to his Wellington establishment, Danger Danger.

“We're nervously excited, we've been closed for a really long time, which hurts. But, you know, we're in hospitality. We love our punters, we love our people; we're excited to get the doors open and get some bums on seats hopefully,” Mr McLaughlin said. 

While Wellington’s bar scene is yet to see any major closures, Mr McLaughlin said it’ll soon become clear whether or not businesses can continue to operate under Level 2 restrictions.

“The last two months have been tough, but the next six months are going to be even tougher. We're coming into a winter with no events, no All Blacks Tests. She's going to be tough going for the next six months, hopefully we can get through the other side.”

Music venues are reopening in a similar way to bars.

Patrons must be seated, spaced one metre apart, and be hosted by a single server.

One popular Wellington bar and live music space, Meow, has kicked things off with their first live concert since lockdown began.

“People will be coming in and sitting in their bubbles, in groups smaller than 10,” said Meow’s owner, Rahine O’Reilly.

Gigs at Meow can attract up to 400 people but the venue will be restricted to just 60 during Level 2.

“We can’t fit any more [people] in because we can’t fit any more tables in and have them spaced far enough apart,” Ms O’Reilly said.

The bar will focus on booking jazz musicians in the coming weeks.

“There will be no dancing. I have instructed the musicians not to play anything too romantic, or too exciting, because people have to stay in their chairs."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated the country could remain in Level 2 for some time but at a press conference yesterday said there is the possibility strict restrictions around social distancing and gathering sizes could be relaxed.

Ms O’Reilly believes Meow can continue to operate under the current Level 2 guidelines until the end of the year.

“I think if it’s like this till next year, we’ll be making some serious decisions.”

Mr McLaughlin said he’s hoping to see a relaxation on social distancing.

“I’d like to see people be able to mix and mingle a little more. That’s what hospitality is about, that’s why people come to a bar. It would be great to get back to some form of normality and be able to have a dancefloor.”

Reviews of Level 2 restrictions will be made fortnightly, with Cabinet expected to reconsider the size restrictions on gatherings on Monday.