Quake-affected Courtenay Place bars optimistic as car park demolition continues
Quake-affected bar owners in Wellington's Courtenay Place are confident their businesses will survive the months-long closure over what should be their peak summer earning period.
Until the Reading Cinema car park demolition is completed, a block of Courtenay Pl and Tory St homes and businesses near the city's central party zone remain closed.
Their own buildings were unscathed in November's Kaikoura quake, but proximity to the damaged car park meant they were ordered to close for safety reasons, costing many a summer of earnings.
Just before Christmas, affected business owners and residents were given a brief window to collect all they could when authorities allowed people back inside the evacuated buildings.
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Given 20 minutes to grab and dash, bar owners say they retrieved food and reservations records, knowing they would be unlikely to be allowed back indoors until at least March.
The cordon was extended just after Christmas to Tory St's intersection with Wakefield St, enveloping more businesses.
Ballroom bar owner Paul Worthington said the venue had just been refurbished in the weeks before the quake, and had a lot of Christmas bookings.
So when Worthington was allowed back in for 20 minutes, he rushed to retrieve his reservations book so he could contact customers.
His bank has supported him with a small business loan, and he has also been able to access the $17.5 million Government support package for quake-affected Wellington and Kaikoura businesses to help them keep paying staff while they are closed.
"We're making the most of a tough situation."
The package covers businesses without continuation insurance only, and business owners with the insurance face high premiums and capped payouts if it is damage to a neighbouring building causing their closure.
Vinyl Bar owner Greig Wilson said he was pleased the Government had extended the package into March, adding it was good to see the car park was coming down.
Dragonfly co-owner Brent Wong said he was confident that, even if his insurance policy's minimum cover was paid out, the bar would survive the four-month closure.
When he was allowed back inside Dragonfly for 20 minutes, Urban Search and Rescue helped him bag as much food as possible. The bar's owners opted to keep the power running, figuring that leaving the fridges on could prevent rotting.
Dragonfly has opened a pop-up restaurant in the Mojo cafe at the St James Theatre in the meantime.
Wong said the owners were grateful for the "fantastic" site. But because it had a smaller kitchen and bar space, income had dropped.
"It's definitely not anywhere near what we were doing at Dragonfly."
Several staff had left since its temporary closure.
"Some of them have moved on to other things, which we completely understand. It's not the big, hyped-up same place that Dragonfly is."
He expected Dragonfly would need a week to be cleaned before reopening in March, and he hoped Wellingtonians would visit the pop-up in the meantime.
"That's the biggest thing for us, people coming out and supporting us. It takes the pressure off."