Government workers urged to return to office as COVID-19 bites for Wellington CBD businesses

Wellington's business community is pleading for thousands of public servants to return to the office to keep their doors open at COVID-19 alert level 2.

Mojo Coffee CEO Pierre van Heerden says "the city has just been empty". Things aren't too different five minutes up the road, at the Backbencher Gastropub.

"Level 2's not sustainable, our cafe is at 25 percent and the Backbencher at about 10 percent,” Alistair Boyce says.

Both venues are crying out for the same thing.

"The Government employees are crucial to the survival of the city as a whole," van Heerden says.

It's estimated the capital's economy is operating at just half of what it does normally.

"Businesses are very grateful to be back on board, but without a doubt it's not back to where it needs to be," says First Retail NZ Managing Director Chris Wilkinson.

This version of alert level 2 is tougher than last year.

"The stricter restrictions have hampered how people can do business," van Heerden says.

The 50-person limit inside is a major challenge, but the Backbencher has a solution.

"Just halve your fire limit for the amount of people allowed in your space," Boyce says.

But the most crucial solution is getting people back to work in the CBD.

Some Government agencies Newshub spoke to are still encouraging people to work from home, while others are staggering the return of staff. Others only have half their staff at work.

The Prime Minister says that shouldn't stop them from visiting the CBD.

"They should feel free to come back into the city, frequent their favourite local cafe, pop into their retailer and definitely support local," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Something businesses need now more than ever.