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Seeing red

Trust House chief executive officer Charles Kaka says businesses still have health and safety responsibilities, regardless of vaccine mandates. PHOTO/FILE

Businesses looking for some light relief will have to wait

Hospitality businesses are optimistic about the removal of vaccine pass mandates, although they have some reservations.

New Zealand would remain in the red setting of the traffic light system, with another review to come on April 14.

However, as of yesterday, vaccine passes would no longer be mandated at most locations, including hospitality venues, although individual businesses could still choose to apply the vaccine pass system.

Trust House chief executive officer Charles Kaka said that any decisions regarding vaccine mandates would cover all subsidiary businesses.

The community-owned company operated about 10 hospitality venues throughout Wairarapa, including Martinborough’s Pukemanu Bar and Eatery.

The Trust House board would meet on Wednesday to discuss their plan.

“We’ll be consistent in terms of how we apply the mandate policy going forward,” Kaka said.

“Notwithstanding what the government may decide, we’ve still got a legal obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure whatever is reasonably practicable to keep our staff and our patrons as safe as we can.”

However, he said it was unlikely that Trust House businesses would continue to require vaccine passes from customers.

“By default, you rely now on total vaccination rates and people maintaining good hygiene practices.

“The wearing of masks is something that we’ll encourage our staff to maintain considering the medical advice around the protection it offers.”

Kaka said that a move from red to orange would have provided some relief for businesses.

“All our business has stalled, as it has for most people. While you’re in red, you still have to seat people and serve them, which is a challenge.”

However, Kaka said that with the cost of living on the rise, people would still be hesitant to go out spending, no matter the traffic light setting.

“We’re not anticipating that what happened in 2020, where there was a huge bounce-back, will happen. We think people will be more discrete in terms of their spending.”

Pukemanu Bar and Eatery manager Bridgett Harper said that she would follow the advice of Trust House management.

“If they want to keep the vaccine passes, we’ll do that.”

Harper said that hospitality businesses had taken on extra responsibilities while vaccine pass mandates were in effect.

She said that some staff members had received abuse from customers who disagreed with the bar’s mandate enforcement.

“We’ve had all this extra work justifying and explaining the rules to everyone, having to turn people away because they’re unvaxxed and getting abused. Now, suddenly, anyone and everyone can come back in.

“I find that annoying. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to abide by the law and follow the rules.”

Harper said that although venues could now host up to 200 people, there were still barriers in place.

“We still have to wear masks, and you’re still not allowed to eat and drink at the pokies.

“Nothing’s really changed – we’re just allowed to have more people in.”

Masterton’s SUP Brewery owner Mark Harris said removing vaccine passes would not mean an instant return to normality.

“People are a bit apprehensive at the moment, and I don’t think that will change much. It might take four to six months before people get confidence again. I can’t change that – all I can do is provide a good experience and hope that people enjoy that.”

CBK Masterton owner Daniel Lee said that bookings at his restaurant had started to pick up in advance of the mandate removal.

However, he said that some vaccinated customers had expressed concern about dining alongside unvaccinated people.

He said his main concern would be his staff getting covid-19 and said he would continue to encourage mask-wearing regardless of the traffic light setting.

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