COVID-19: Devastation in Auckland hospitality as sector forced to stay shut for longer despite restrictions easing

The co-owner of an Auckland restaurant is devastated at having to stay shut for longer after hospitality wasn't included in Wednesday's easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Businesses across Auckland are preparing for in-person retail customers as the Super City gears up for alert level 3, step 2. As part of Auckland's roadmap out of COVID-19 lockdowns, step 2 allows retailers to dust off the cobwebs and swing open their doors, while outside group gatherings of up to 25 people are also allowed. 

After the hospitality sector called for them to be included in any easing of restrictions, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday ruled out Auckland hospitality venues opening even for outdoor customers - meaning still only takeaways are permitted.

Hospitality won't be able to reopen until alert level 3, step 3 or when full vaccination levels in Auckland reach 90 percent - whatever comes first. 

But Auckland's Va Bene restaurant co-owner Paul Patterson told The AM Show his business was ready to cater for outdoor dining two months ago.

"I think it'd be easier to control than retail so I don't really understand why we're not able to open at the same time."

Patterson said he's losing sleep as he deals with the lockdown and is weighing up the future of his business.

He said he's struggling to make ends meet.

"[It's] basically week to week at the moment. We're not covering rent in takeaway sales.

"We are fortunate enough that we are getting some help from the Government in the country that we live in but it's… not going all the way."  

Viv Beck, the chief executive of Auckland CBD group Heart of the City, said there was a lot at stake for hospitality businesses.

"We certainly would have loved to have seen the ability for hospitality businesses to be able to serve those people outside," she told Newshub. "There's still some disappointments and concerns but we are pleased to be moving… forward."

Auckland City Mayor Phil Goff agreed easing restrictions was a step in the right direction.

"It will be an important boost for those businesses and people working in them that have been hit hard by the extended lockdown," he said. "The response from Aucklanders - with 92 percent vaccinated and 82 percent have had their second dose - is a major factor in enabling the continuing easing of restrictions."