Viv Beck: Auckland CBD shut-down could cost businesses more than $10 million
Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive
Today's "stay at home" Covid-19 message for Auckland workers could cost inner-city businesses more than $10 million, the Chamber of Commerce predicts.Auckland is home to 34 cent of the country's population, and is responsible for about 40 per cent of the tax take and GDP, according to Auckland Council data.Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, said today's measures meant about 100,000 people stayed away from the CBD."It's got to be in excess of $10m a day when you look at the loss of retail, the loss of people coming in to town," he said."On top of that, you have the lost productivity of businesses that are having to change the way they operate," he told the Herald."The third thing is that they have the uncertainty that is instilled in businesses who are asking if they should bring in stock for the weekend, stock for restaurants and so on," Barnett said."The repercussions of this, even if it's just for 24 hours, are still greater than what happens on the day," he said.Barnett said the Government may look at "hyper-localising" its response to future cases of community transmission of Covid-19."That means putting a ring around an area and hitting it hard," he said."I don't think we will see those widespread regional lockdowns but I can see us hyper-localising and being intense about the way that we operate," Barnett said."It would send a message to employees and employers about the necessities of QR codes and the need stay at home if people are unwell," he said.Today's Covid-19 measures have poured cold water on those businesses planning a marketing ploy out of today's date: Friday the 13th.Computer store PB Tech was forced to postpone its New Zealand-wide promotion because of today's Covid-19 restrictions.The Government said this afternoon that the latest case of Covid-19 had been genomically linked to the Defence Force cluster and there are no new community cases.New Zealand would remain at alert level 1 and Auckland's CBD will re-open, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.
Viv Beck: Auckland businesses still hurting from City Rail Link construction
The Mike Hosking Breakfast
Three weeks have passed since Auckland joined the rest of the country in alert level 1, but some businesses in the CBD say they are still on struggle street as customers haven't returned with the increased freedom.The region jumped back into level 1 on 7 October after a second outbreak of Covid-19 prompted another lockdown.Sunny Kaushal manages the Shakespeare Hotel and Brewery in the central city and is also the spokesman for a group of business owners along Albert St.He was hoping for a boom on Tuesday after Labour weekend, but the seats were left painfully empty with only one customer during the lunch period.Kaushal said businesses on Albert St have been hit by a double whammy of Covid-19 and the City Rail Link construction - his business has lost nearly $2 million over the past few years due to the disruption of the construction."It's been very, very hard."Kaushal believes more events and festivals need to be put on in the city to attract people to the inner city as he was not expecting much from the America's Cup."Unless and until the international borders open Auckland city is not going to come back to normal."Some more affected than others.Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said some businesses on Queen St were being affected more than others - those towards the west side of the central city were hurting the most."Some are saying that [foot] traffic is down 40 per cent, but if you look at the overall city the trend is in the right direction."He said the construction in the CBD is a major hindrance for businesses, and has seen the area packed with "cordons and cones".Barnett said there needs to be a plan to revitalise the city and it would make a big difference if workers returned to CBD offices.Sunny, a retail worker at Kiwi Souvenirs on Queen St, said the business has been dead since the first lockdown.She said this week had been quiet, following a small number of outside visitors over Labour weekend.Since the borders remain shut, she is not holding her breath for a summer rush either - unless international visitors choose to buy souvenirs to send back home.Sunny said other souvenir shops are in the same boat, but if they were located on a side street they would be suffering even more.She hoped business will pick up a little when the America's Cup starts in March.Meanwhile, Jo McColl, owner of Unity Books on High St, said the business was rushed off its feet by a "tsunami" of customers when the region went to alert level 2.5.She said business was good and had returned to normal, with people beginning to buy their Christmas gifts ahead of time.
Viv Beck: How Auckland's CBD is handling level 2 restrictions
The Mike Hosking Breakfast
Auckland's CBD is looking to get back on its feet under level 2 by rescheduling Restaurant Month and music events like Th' Dudes.Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck says business in the city's engine room nose-dived under level 3 and expects there will be a phased return to work for 130,000 employees.She said spending had almost returned to 2019 levels when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland was going into a second lockdown on August 12.Preliminary data showed business plummeted 80 per cent under level 3 and some sectors, like hospitality, have felt the impact of a second lockdown harder than others, said Beck.Her view is shared by Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett, who believed there would be more apprehension this time about people returning to work in the CBD."With the talk about the tail being longer I think firms that feed Queen St, the big offices and so on, instead of everybody coming back it will be a phased-in type of operation," he said.There are already empty shops in the CBD and about a quarter of retailers are unsure about the future, said Barnett, saying the current situation is placing a huge amount of stress on businesses and staff.Said Beck: "These are challenging times but we have to do everything we can to support businesses."Among the measures are rescheduling Restaurant Month in August, which Beck said was going really well, with many events sold out until it had to stop."We have decided to carry it on until the end of September and are hoping people will dine through level 2. They did last time and the restaurants know the drill. They really need the business," she said.A number of events in the city have also been rescheduled, like the Th' Dudes who are performing for three nights at the Auckland Town Hall in November and Tami Neilson, performing at The Civic on November 14.Mandy Lusk, who owns Vivace restaurant in Fort St, said the rescheduling of Restaurant Month was a positive.It would be great to get people back, but there is no ability to make money because of the compliance costs, "but we are still happy, particularly for the staff's mental state", she said.Lusk said level 2 is harder this time because there is a genuine fear from the customers about community transmission still being out there."I really think we should probably be expecting to be operating at about 40 per cent of our turnover for the next couple of months," she said.Vivace owner Mandy Lusk. Photo / NZ HeraldPrecinct Properties chief executive Scott Pritchard said lockdown has undoubtedly been hard on retail and hospitality Auckland-wide, but the company had a positive response with the opening at the new Commercial Bay mall on the city waterfront after the last lockdown."We're confident Aucklanders will come out in support this time too," he said.Pritchard said Precinct Properties, which owns a number of large office buildings in the CBD, said the majority of people want to be back in the office and will return in some capacity from tomorrow,."However many businesses will limit the number of people in the office to allow for physical distancing and some will continue to work from home at level 2, " he said.Takapuna Beach Business Association chief executive Terence Harpur said Paymark data showed retail spending plummeted during level 3, which was crippling for business."Level 2 can't come soon enough, with our retailers and hospitality operators set to welcome everyone with open arms," he said.From tomorrow, anyone over 12 will have to wear a face mask on public transport, and Aucklanders have also been strongly advised to wear masks in public.Police will be visible and present at transport hubs and other areas which would normally get higher volumes of foot traffic.Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said the police response to the pandemic was to "work with the public first and remind them of what is required from them" rather than take hard and...
Viv Beck: Restaurant Month returns in a post-lockdown environment
Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby
It's a ride in a time machine, the set menu on offer at chef Kyle Street's Auckland restaurant Culprit next month.Auckland Restaurant Month is back from August 1 for its 10th year in the city centre, and more than 175 eateries and restaurants - 40 per cent offering $15 options - are finding ways to fill tills and lift spirits after Covid-19 walloped the hospitality industry.Among them is Street, whose four-course Jet-Set Menu is a trip six months back in time, when borders were open and flights frequent."It's inspired by the international trip we all wish we could take," Street said of the $40 per person set menu, which also has a pricier first class upgrade option.The in-flight meal arrives on a trolley and plated on a tray, with air travel staples such as bread and butter and a choice of a beef or fish tartare dish.Sparkling rose jet planes dipped in sherbet are the palate cleanser before the destination dish of bouillabaisse or tagine.Restaurant Month also usually includes guest chefs from overseas, but with New Zealand's border closed to non-residents, that wasn't possible this year - another reason to do something that brought the outside world back in, Street said."We're trying to make something special."He's not alone.Preparation was under way across city centre eateries and restaurants. The number of participant businesses this year has soared by more than 70, and 180 menus are available.Restaurant Month always had an important place on the city's calendar, but this year was especially so, Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said."We're really pleased to be able to have an event like this and I hope people will come and support the diversity of offerings."Hospitality has been hammered by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has stopped tourists coming to New Zealand and, during the level 3 and 4 lockdowns, kept Kiwis at home.During the level 4 lockdown foot traffic in Queen St was down 90 per cent on usual, but was now about 20 to 30 per cent below normal, Beck said.They were aware fellow Kiwis had also been hit by the pandemic's economic impact and, although 20 per cent of Restaurant Month's set menus were more than $55, a budget option had also been included this year.The $15 "grab 'n go" options were good news for customers as well as businesses, with more cafes and eateries able to take part in the event.Sumthin Dumpling, Best Ugly Bagels and Miss Clawdy are among businesses offering $15 options, and restaurants such as Xuxu, The Good Luck Coconut and Lowbrow will have $25 set menus.Kiwis had already shown a willingness to support local business after the lockdowns, and Beck expected this would continue - benefiting both by bringing "life and vibrancy" to the city.Higher-end diners wouldn't miss out - Cassia, Baduzzi and The Grove are among more exclusive venues offering set menus next month.Nine chef's table events are also planned, featuring the city's top chefs - including Street, Sid Sahrawat, Michael Dearth and Jordan Macdonald - hosting intimate multi-course dinners inspired by dishes they've loved and been influenced by."It's quite special, and it's another way we're adapting the format in these different circumstances."It had been a nervous time immediately after the level 3 and 4 lockdowns, but the community had supported them, Street said."Restaurant Month should kick that into overdrive. [But] we're also very aware of the financial pressure on everyone at the moment and we've made sure the menu is affordable."- text by Cherie Howie, NZ Herald
Viv Beck: Retailers furious with Auckland Council for messing up Queen Street
Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive
Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are in the dog box amid claims they have messed up Queen St while businesses are trying to get back on their feet after lockdown.Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck is hopping mad with senior bureaucrats for breaking promises and having an agenda that "reeks of a pre-determined outcome".Her anger stems from the council and Auckland Transport pressing ahead with the "Access for Everyone" pilot that involves taking out bus lanes and reducing Queen St to one lane in each direction to make it more pedestrian friendly.This has resulted in buses sharing the single lane with cars and taking longer to go up and down Queen St.Beck accused the bureaucrats of jumping the gun on a process for the future of Queen St, leaving businesses to live with a mess outside their shops and offices.Overnight, said Beck, the council placed concrete dividers on Queen St between Customs St and Shortland St, including one at the Fort St intersection."They are aware this intersection is already causing issues in the shared space and they have not answered our question as to how they have come to close it without any discussion with surrounding businesses," she said.Council's chief of strategy Megan Tyler defended the actions of the council and Auckland Transport, saying the result will be "a very real change for the better".Tyler said the temporary emergency works on Queen St using orange cones, later replaced by white plastic sticks, for physical distance during alert Level 3, are an opportunity to quickly and efficiently test and refine work as part of a co-design process.It meant the council could gain immediate feedback without the cost of moving emergency structures and having to reinstate them again, she said.Tyler cited the example of the concrete safety separators between Customs St and Shortland St that have upset Beck.Beck said AT promised the emergency works would be removed at the end of Level 2 but this decision was overridden by council without any discussion with businesses.She said "Access for Everyone" is an innovative idea to make the city centre better for people while ensuring traffic can still get about, but it needs to be done well."We are flabbergasted that the council is pressing on with the emergency works in the knowledge that businesses on the street have some significant concerns," Beck said in a Herald article today."These concerns relate to the poor quality and unappealing look, safety issues, the impact of closing Fort St."I'm sure businesses in nearby Albert St would have some advice for their neighbours in Queen St about trust, respect and delivery after protracted pleas for better management of construction, mess and access during the building of the City Rail Link," said Beck.Tyler said, weather permitting, the expanded pedestrian area created during the Covid-19 works will be painted to make it clearer to pedestrians that the area is theirs to use."Covid-19 has placed huge pressures on business, the council and the country. But this is one small opportunity that will allow us to make a very real change for the better," Tyler said.- text by Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald
Viv Beck: Auckland businesses support 'night-time mayor' proposal
Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby
There is support from Auckland businesses for the idea of a night-time mayor.A New Zealand Initiative report says New Zealand is failing to make full use of the evening economy.It says the international concept of a local night leader should be introduced here.Heart of the City chief executive, Viv Beck told Andrew Dickens it could work very well in Auckland."Somebody with passion and who would love to see something fabulous happen to the city would be ideal for the role."The current night-time economy provides professional opportunities for at least 20,000 people in bars and clubs with $2 billion in revenue each year. LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW ABOVE