“Covid has closed our doors”: popular bar succumbs to pandemic restrictions

On a quiet Tuesday evening, a popular Christchurch pub closed for the last time.

It was a sad end for Tom Newfield, the man who dreamed of bringing a vibrant neighborhood pub culture to central Christchurch five years ago.

In 2017, Newfield opened the doors to Welles Street, its skillfully remodeled 1950s warehouse with its multi-colored wall mural on the street begging punters to enter.

He promised us a fun place for everyone, and Christchurch accepted him.

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With a capacity of 400 people and a sophisticated Middle Eastern culinary vibe, Newfield was one of many courageous new entrepreneurs who saw the rebuilding of Christchurch as an opportunity.

But like many businesses, Newfield has had to deal with the harsh reality of Covid-19.

Eighteen months after the start of a pandemic that included lockdowns, uncertainties and financial decline, Newfield pulled the pin on four places of hospitality of which he is director.

The businesses that own the Earl fine dining restaurant, the downtown Pink Lady rooftop bar and the Bottle & Stone pizzeria as well as Welles Street were put into liquidation on Monday.

Liquidator Brenton Hunt describes himself as the undertaker when these businesses fail, and said it was hard work. “These are dreams of people and babies that you speak of.”

His immediate concern as appointed liquidator was to find jobs for the staff of the four companies. Hunt hoped that desperate recruiters facing a staff shortage overseas would fill the void.

He had not yet been able to know the full financial situation of the four companies.

Hunt said he had answered phone calls from companies on the borderline, some of them relying on the tourism dollar that were now “in panic.”

The timing of the second lockdown couldn’t have been worse for hospitality, he believes, coming on a Tuesday afternoon as businesses stocked up and started preparing for the week.

“Hospitality was already difficult, and now it’s really difficult.


National leader Judith Collins said the government must offer certainty to businesses and end lockdown restrictions in six weeks.

The announcement came bluntly via social media, declaring “like all my hospo comrades around the world, Covid had closed our doors.”

Newfield’s statement provided insight into the difficulties of keeping businesses afloat during tough times, and it made reading uncomfortable.

“Behind the scenes, we’ve done everything we can to ensure the business is in the best possible position to operate and rebuild. “

However, the efforts have proven impossible to continue in the current climate, he wrote.

“Over the past 18 months, we have suffered lockdowns, protracted CBD reconstructions, closed borders, severe staff shortages and work visa issues. “

Recognizing how important Welles Street was to so many people, Newfield said they were fortunate to have so many amazing customers he trusted that they would stay loyal to other local businesses.

“The industry is going to rejuvenate … And while these times may be uncertain, they must be a time of understanding, tolerance and positivity for our industry, and I will do whatever I can to help.”

Newfield was not alone. Recently Thing explained how Praveen Nautiyal’s courageous step into self-employment resulted in a shredded business plan due to Covid-19.

While working as a professional chef, Nautiyal had built a successful side business with his “Feed the Need” food trailer.

All parked and nowhere to go: Praveen Nautiyal had planned to quit her job and go full-time to her food truck, but Covid-19 struck.


All parked and nowhere to go: Praveen Nautiyal had planned to quit her job and go full-time to her food truck, but Covid-19 struck.

He worked hard and enjoyed being self employed. So he decided to pack his bags in time to engage in the pre-Christmas events.

He couldn’t have known that the press conference called by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on August 17, in which she announced a nationwide lockdown, would see his dream parked in a Rolleston garage.

As the restrictions took effect and the long tail of Covid-19 kept the South Island on Alert Level 2, Nautiyal, like many food vendors, could do nothing but watch event afterward. event be removed from its calendar.

Now he is struggling to pay rent and a mortgage and has been forced to look for temporary work.

For the Executive Director of the Restaurant Association, Marisa Bidois, looking aside at companies going bankrupt has been a heartbreaking exercise.

Bidois spoke to several hundred companies that took out large loans as an act of survival.

The situation, she says, is serious.

Frustrated, Bidois has systematically knocked on the government door and asked for financial help and clarification on the way forward to get out of the restrictions of a life-sustaining industry.

A silver lining appeared when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hinted that an announcement might be coming, but the cumulative damage of the past 18 months meant any help offered might already be too late. “We need help.”

Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Leeann Watson called the disappearance of Welles Street “very sad news”.

“Losing a business in our community is devastating. “

Watson fought for the government to clarify future operating restrictions for businesses, but to no avail.

While businesses have been incredibly resilient over the past 18 months, some industries such as hospitality have spent the past year using available cash to stay afloat, she said.

“With declining revenues, increased operating costs to ensure they can meet alert level restrictions, coupled with the latest lockdown and the extended level 2 restrictions that we all have to operate in, the continued impact is just too much to bear for some companies. “

The importance of targeted financial support for specific sectors such as hospitality, tourism, retail and the events industry is now urgent, she said.

Welles Street bar owner Tom Newfield is pulling the pin after Covid-19 restrictions forced them to close.  (File photo)

Stacy Squires / Stuff

Welles Street bar owner Tom Newfield is pulling the pin after Covid-19 restrictions forced them to close. (File photo)

News of another hotel business’s failure comes as National tourism and small business spokesperson Todd McClay released the party’s return to business.plan, a set of urgent measures designed to ensure the survival of businesses over the next 12 months.

The package includes the distribution of “dinner and discovery” vouchers to support the hotel industry, accommodation and tourism, valued at $ 100 for each fully immunized adult, which can be spent at any hospitality, accommodation or tourism business across the country over the next six months.

They are also proposing to expand outdoor seating in hotel businesses where it is safe and convenient for the next six months and would strike down council regulations to do so.

McClay said they would also establish an insurance plan to allow planning of major events with the assurance that blockages will not result in significant financial losses to organizers, customers or suppliers.

Calling on the government to adopt the plan, McClay said tourism, hospitality and events businesses had been severely affected by Covid-19.

“If they are to help rebuild New Zealand, we need them to survive.

The Centrix credit bureau said business closures in Christchurch rose 10%, Auckland by 13.8% in September and Wellington’s figures were relatively stable.

Thing contacted Newfield for comment.

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