Huge setback for hospitality staff

Last updated 05:00 17/03/2011
Don Scott

Bottoms up: Stephen McLennan, left, and Joe Power enjoy a drink at O'Sheas Public Bar on Marshlands Rd, which is set to be busy for St Patrick's Day.

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More than 900 Christchurch hospitality workers have been left jobless as over 100 bars, restaurants and cafes remain unable to open in the city.

Yesterday, central city hospitality owners announced the formation of a working group aimed at leading the rebuild of the industry after the February 22 quake.

Hospitality Association New Zealand (Hanz) chief executive Bruce Robertson said there were more than 90 businesses currently not trading in the city.

"Certainly there has been a movement towards the suburbs in recent weeks because the CBD isn't in great shape. Those suburban places are doing a great trade at the moment."

Hanz regional manager Susan Biss said that in addition to the more than 900 bar and restaurant staff unable to work were staff from several closed city hotels.

Former Christchurch mayor and business owner Gary Moore said his family bar, Goodbye Blue Monday, in Poplar Lane, had been "destroyed" in the earthquake.

"The building is all red-stickered and we cannot get in there at all."

Moore and son Johnny said they remained committed to the "revival" of Christchurch. "We believe that the city will rise phoenix-like from the ashes."

Businessman Max Bremner, CEO of Oxford Management Services which owns and operates La Petite Croix, Yellow Cross, Vinum, Fish n Chips, The Cleaners Cupboard, Fat Eddies, The Bog and several Speights Ale Houses in Christchurch, said hospitality owners had banded together to form Christchurch CBD Hospitality Action.

"We just want to show a collective voice that is representative of the industry and is committed to doing the best for hospitality in the central city. We can build something fantastic."

The group was set up to address the myriad of problems facing owners, ranging from access to their businesses to demolition problems to getting rid of vermin.

The group anticipated problems arising with insurance, landlords and banks in the coming months.

"No insurance policy covers de-population. For example, if we open Sol Square and everyone's too scared to come back into town then we lose out and possibly go broke," Bremner said.

"We don't believe that will happen because young people will be going stir crazy and want to come back."

The quake had changed the traditional social demographics of various bars in the city, Bremner said.

"We're getting young girls coming to the Ale House in mini-skirts. That is not our usual clientele."

When the quake struck, Bremner was eating lunch with business partners at their bar The Bog in the City Mall. "I ran outside after about a minute and that's when I saw the dust and stuff rising up like 9/11."

Bremner helped pull people from the rubble, including baker Shane Tomlin who later died in hospital. He did not believe The Bog would reopen at the same site.

"After having experienced that place after the quake, I'm certainly not going back there. Not with what happened across the road – there's too many bad memories there now."

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