Diners celebrate Chinese New Year with hopes COVID-19 will soon ease

Diners were out celebrating Chinese New Year at local restaurants on Thursday.
Diners were out celebrating Chinese New Year at local restaurants on Thursday. Photo credit: RNZ reporter Liu Chen

By Liu Chen of RNZ

Many Chinese New Zealanders went out for dinner last night to celebrate the New Year's Eve with family and friends and a lot of restaurants in Auckland have been booked out, offering some relief to businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Diners, including Trey Fan at Meet Creative Chinese restaurant on Dominion Road in central Auckland, wanted nothing more than just a bit of normality.

"In the new year, I hope everyone stays safe and sound, live a happy life and the pandemic to be over as soon as possible, then we can go back to China. What I want to do most is going back to China," she said.

As the evening progressed, the owner of Cuisine Art, Nicole Song, said her restaurant had been exceptionally busy.

"People are still in the queue and we've also got the second round. More people will be coming probably after seven [o'clock]"

She said the new year had brought new hope for her.

"Hopefully COVID-19 will be gone quickly and everyone will be able to come back to normal life."

Kevin Teng said his Meet Creative Chinese restaurant was booked up a week ago.

"We have two rounds today - from half past four to a quarter past seven and half past seven to late night. As we can see from the bookings, both rounds have been fully booked."

A queue formed outside Cuisine Art on Dominion Rd.
A queue formed outside Cuisine Art on Dominion Rd. Photo credit: RNZ reporter Liu Chen

He said it had been a turbulent year for the restaurant industry.

"I hope that all of us will stay healthy and be far away from the pandemic. As someone who works in the restaurant industry, I'm confident about the domestic market. I believe all of us will do a good job in the future."

The New Zealand Chinese Travel and Tourism Association has around 350 Chinese restaurants as members.

Its chairman, Simon Cheung, said no one had seen Chinese restaurants being so busy after lockdown.

"We notice starting from yesterday until probably next Sunday there is a peak season for our Chinese New Year, so people start getting a little bit confident getting out there to have dinner in the restaurant now. It's a good sign."

Cheung said to encourage people to visit restaurants, his organisation is handing out 50,000 hand sanitisers for free.

The Chinese New Year celebration normally lasts for two weeks until the lantern festival, which falls on February 26 this year.

Auckland will have a celebration for the lantern festival on its waterfront featuring handmade lanterns, culture performances, crafts and a fireworks display.