Wellington business owner faces early retirement after quake

Wellington business owner John Swan (supplied)
Wellington business owner John Swan (supplied)

Seventy-eight-year-old John Swan says he's facing early retirement after his central Wellington business was forced to close following last month's quake.

Mr Swan has owned a picture framing shop on Tory Street in Courtenay Place since 1987.

While the store itself is fine, he's been forced to close as it sits within a cordon surrounding the Reading Cinema car park, which suffered structural damage in the November 14 shake.

On Thursday, Wellington City Council revealed engineers have deemed the eight-storey building too unsafe and say it will have to be demolished. That could take weeks, possibly months, and work is unlikely to begin until the New Year.

In the meantime those within the cordon - about 40 businesses and several apartments housing about 200 people - will have to stay away.

"It's annoying [because] I'm still getting phone calls from people wanting things done before Christmas but that's not going to happen," Mr Swan told Newshub.

He's been able to grab some files and finished frames, but vital equipment he needs to do his job is too heavy to move and he doesn't have anywhere else to set it up.

Mr Swan is losing about $3000 a week in business and is still paying his full-time worker who has worked alongside him for the past decade. And he doesn't have earthquake insurance as it rose from $4000 to a whopping $45,000 after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

A government subsidy helps pay his worker, but if the closure goes on too long he'll have to consider shutting up shop for good. And that, Mr Swan says, would mean early retirement.

"I've been talking about retiring for some time and if it's going to take that long [a month or two] then the chances are that I may close up the business and retire ... I can't see a lot of options to that," he said.

His concern now is whether he'll get much for the business if he tries to sell after it's been closed for months.

"I was hoping in the next year or so to try and sell the business but there may not be anything left to sell to be honest."

Mr Swan says although the closure is frustrating, he's happy the car park is coming down and he's pleased with the way the local council has kept him in the loop.

Until a final decision is made about when the building will come down - and whether he'll sell up - he's busy getting through paperwork and delivering frames completed before the quake.

"[But] in the coming weeks I'll probably be caught up and there'll be nothing much to do, except enjoy the holiday," he said.