‘One lockdown too many’ risks wiping hospitality businesses off the map

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Many hospitality businesses will fail as a result of the present lockdown unless the Government gives them targeted funding, says Hospitality New Zealand. It has written to Finance Minister Grant Robertson telling him this and pleading for help.

Hospitality NZ’s CEO Julie White says many hospitality and accommodation operators are at breaking point.

“They need help now,” she says. “They’re telling me this lockdown is hitting them harder than any of the previous ones, and they won’t survive much longer without help. They can’t wait till the lockdowns end – that’s too far away.

“It’s not even a case of getting out of Level 4. For many businesses it’s not even viable to re-open until we get to Level 2, and at the present rate of decline of new positive Covid cases that looks like many weeks away.

“Most have somehow survived till now. I don’t know how, what with stretched balance sheets, accumulated debts, and a very soft summer, but they did.

“But this time it’s different. I fear it’s one lockdown too many, and the combined effects of all those factors will be the last straw for many.

“The problem is there is no access to ongoing funding for businesses. They can access the wage subsidy scheme, which is great, but it doesn’t pay the rent and other fixed costs. And I’m hearing there’s less help coming from landlords this time around.

“I’m pleading with the Government, and in particular Finance Minister, to consider the impact on sectors like ours.

“He has said he knows hospitality operators are doing it tough, but he hasn’t offered any targeted support.

“Our ask is very simple: extend the current resurgence support package to hospitality and accommodation operators, similar to the way the wage subsidy scheme works.

“I’m talking about the livelihoods of family owner-operators who are coming under greater stress, and I fear for their mental health.

“It’s a matter of balance, and right now the Government assistance is not balanced.

“Business also needs more clarity on the Government’s ‘plan’.

“Will we go into another lockdown if we find another community case? Are we waiting for a certain proportion of Kiwis to be vaccinated before that spectre is removed from over our heads, and if so, what is that vaccination rate?

“Having no clarity on a plan creates so much uncertainty – and that will only result in business closure and impact jobs and communities.

“It means we have no idea if operators outside Auckland will be in Level 2 in time for Father’s Day this weekend. This is normally a strong trading day, and it would make a big difference to many, but we remain in the dark.

“Uncertainty can be the biggest killer.”

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