Cafes, pubs divided on holiday surcharge

SAM BOYER
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013

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The practice of charging extra on public holidays has been labelled disgusting and unnecessary by some Wellington cafes and pubs, while others remain happy to levy the extra charge.

Marisa Bidois, chief executive of the Restaurant Association, said it was an owner's choice whether or not to charge extra, and the customer's choice whether or not to accept it.

A 15-20 per cent surcharge was not unreasonable, she said.

"As members of the public, you can choose to stay at home on the holidays or you can choose to go somewhere that doesn't surcharge. Or you can choose somewhere that does."

Lido Cafe owner David George, who levies a surcharge on public holidays, said the fees were warranted, as trade on those days "can be variable" and staff wages were higher.

"Basically, it's the costs, it's as simple as that. It's time and a half and a day in lieu [for workers].

"It's not just an add-on for the hell of it . . . We're running a business."

Cafe Reka, based at The Dowse in Lower Hutt, will also charge today. Manager Rose Gupwell said customers did not seem to mind. "We're about the only big cafe open in Lower Hutt."

But Danielle Harkness, manager of Cafe Neo in Willis St, has dubbed the surcharges "disgusting".

"I can't believe that people are still doing surcharges. To be honest, I reckon it scares people off."

Because fewer cafes and restaurants opened on public holidays it was not necessary to charge extra. Simply being open when your competitors were closed was enough incentive, Ms Harkness said. "It works for us . . . costs are covered."

Restaurant Association president Mike Egan, co-owner of Wellington eateries Osteria del Toro and Monsoon Poon, said surcharging was a necessary evil.

More cafes were choosing to close on holidays, he said. Among those that opened, it was pretty even between those that surcharged and those that did not.

Award-winning restaurateur Martin Bosley said his restaurant would open, for the first time on a public holiday, and would not be charging extra.

The Peppermill Delicatessen in Porirua would not be surcharging either, nor would the Chocolate Dayz Cafe in Eastbourne.

Scott Boswell, part-owner of the Hop Garden bar in Mt Victoria, said he could not understand the argument for surcharging.

"Coming at it from a consumer point of view, that would turn me off. I don't see why you can't blend that into the other 350-odd trading days a year.

"If we charged another 10 to 15 per cent we'd be cutting our own throats. It just sort of feels wrong to me, and feels unnecessary."

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