Restaurant owners slam the Government’s mask mandate policy as an ‘absolute joke’

Hospitality bosses have criticised the Government’s new mask rules, with one saying say the new policies are an “absolute joke”.

Masks must now be worn at businesses that serve food and beverage apart from when people are eating or drinking, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

In practice, diners will now be asked to wear masks when getting up from a table to use the bathroom.

Leo Molloy, owner of Headquarters at Auckland’s Viaduct Basin, said the Government needs to consult with the hospitality industry before shaping their policy, as most of their rules weren’t fit for purpose.

“Now all the customers have to wear a mask while going to the toilet, which is bizarre,” he said.

If we can eat and drink without a mask on, there was no rationale for the customers to go to the bathroom with a mask on, he said.

“Why don’t you eat the whole way to the toilet then you don’t need to wear your mask.

“The Prime Minister doesn’t take advice from small business, they make up the rules as they go along, they are reactive, not proactive,” Molloy said.

Three of his key customer-facing staff have already got sores on their face for wearing masks for a long period of time.

“It’s not a great situation but it is what it is, and we’ll comply,” he said.

All workers who are legally mandated to be vaccinated must also wear a medical-grade mask. For example, a Type 2R or Level 2 mask or above while working in public-facing roles. That included the widely available blue medical grade that many were already wearing, Ardern said.

Luke Dallow, the owner of dumplings and beer restaurant Midnight Gardener said it was “absolutely ridiculous” to have the customer make them put the mask on while going to the bathroom.

“It’s back on to us to police it again, and that’s just ridiculous, let’s just get on with it,” he said.

The rule was very confusing to the customers and the negativity is just going to ruin the welcoming environment that the staff tries to create in the restaurants, he said.

“The Government is flip-flopping with their mask protocols, it’s a joke, absolute joke.

“I am not going to every customer to put on the mask, there is going to be no compliance,” he said.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the mandating of mask use whilst moving around hospitality businesses is considered best practice.

“Where it might cause some issues is in educating customers that this is now a requirement. It is not always easy to get customers to follow the rules which put further pressure on hospitality workers.

“We are encouraging diners to support hospitality by making sure they are aware of rule changes as they happen, come prepared and to be receptive and supportive when asked to follow Government guidelines,” Bidois said.

Owner of Devonport’s Manuka Cafe & Restaurant Peter Reeves said he was worried the mask protocol changes would discourage the public from visiting cafes and bars.

“People come out to dine because they want a nice experience. If they’re having all of these rules and regulations, and they have to put a mask on to go to the toilet, it doesn’t become a nice environment which is going to put them off going out.

“We’re all adults, we’ve had a long run at this, let’s just treat each other well and be sensible with the rules, don’t make them over complicated.

“It’s going to put people off coming out, my weekly take is going to go down and I’ve got no access to any support this time round, so from a business point of view, I’m extremely nervous. All these little things are getting drip fed to us. Trying to keep up with all the rules … is tricky. Then I have to educate my customers everyday about it,” he said.

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