Auckland restaurateur calls on Government to help save historic pub The Shakespeare as City Rail Link, COVID-19 bite

The owner of an Auckland historic pub and restaurant is calling on the Government to better support businesses impacted by City Rail Link (CRL) construction. 

The Shakespeare owner Sunny Kaushal says his business is in a "grave situation" after years of disruption from the CRL

"It's a very grave situation. We are trying to save a Kiwi icon, 125 years of history and also more than 18 families who are financially dependent on the business," he told the AM Show on Tuesday. 

"It is very important [because if] we do not have these buildings with this kind of history that we can be really proud of and if these kinds of places close, what do we have left?" 

Kaushal says the main issue is the CRL but the COVID-19 pandemic has been causing further problems for already vulnerable businesses. 

"The major issue is the CRL… that has been very destructive and then the COVID-19 pandemic.The irony is that neither the central or local governments are giving it any attention." 

Kaushal, who bought the business in 2017, said he is losing thousands of dollars a week but isn't giving up. 

"We are losing nearly $10,000 a week. I have lost nearly $2 million so far."

He is calling on the Government and Auckland Council to offer more support.

"The Government and Council, they need to come forward with targeted support and they need to come up with a rent subsidy and rental relief." 

He says tourism and hospitality is a hugely important industry to the economy and deserves support when it is needed. 

It isn't the first time Kaushal has spoken out about the impacts of the CRL. Late last year, he said COVID-19 was going to be "the final nail in the coffin" for many businesses. 

It came as around a third of the businesses affected said they were likely to close their doors. 

Work around Albert St was initially scheduled to end in 2019. 

 A spokesperson for Michael Woods said the Transport Minister is "continuing to look at this issue". 
"The Government and Auckland Council have provided financial support to businesses along Albert Street that have experienced financial hardship as a result of City Rail Link's C2 contract works taking longer to complete than originally planned," the spokesperson said. 

"CRL's Business Hardship Programme was the first of its kind in NZ and was endorsed by an independent commercial real estate valuer."

"Additional support to help with the economic impacts of COVID is also available, including the Wage Subsidy and Small Business Cash Flow Loan Scheme."

Auckland mayor Phil Goff also pointed to the Business Hardship programme, saying it was the first of its kind in New Zealand. 

"The BHP is the first of its kind to be introduced in New Zealand and provides financial assistance on an ex-gratia, or goodwill, basis. The amount of financial assistance that can be provided is based on rental loss and impact assessments, capped at $100,000 per applicant. The scheme and resulting decisions made have been assessed and approved by independent valuers.

"I am also aware that the completed sections of Albert Street with wide level footpaths, mature native trees and street furniture are an asset for businesses there, and for The Shakespeare, which between level 3 lockdowns has its tables and chairs on the pavements outside the hotel.

"Unfortunately, Auckland businesses—as elsewhere in the city and the country—have been profoundly impacted by COVID-19, for which the government has provided wage subsidies and other assistance."