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Busy couple ... The owners of Rangiora's Fools of Desire Cafe, Elisa Leach and Karl Horwarth, outside the cafe in Conway Lane last Saturday. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

By SHELLEY TOPP

Community support for local businesses has never been more important, a Rangiora cafe owner says.

Covid-19 restrictions have hit businesses hard, particularly in the hospitality industry where cafes and restaurants were forced to close under the level-4 lockdown.

“We had no revenue but considerable fixed costs,” explains Karl Horwarth, co-owner of Rangiora’s Fools of Desire Cafe.

The Government’s wage subsidy “was a huge help”.

“It has enabled us to keep our team together. But like some other key industries, including tourism, hospitality has taken a longer hit than most and some direct and additional help, like a GST waiver for a month or longer, would help with cashflow and be a simple way to assist.”

Karl says he wants to learn about the Waimakariri District Council’s plans for the region.

“I would love to see a comprehensive plan to improve facilities, encourage innovative ideas, and then market ourselves to a wider audience.”

Karl and his partner, Elisa Leach, made the most of their lockdown time to improve their business by holding Zoom meetings with staff every other day, doing online training, and upgrading systems.

“We also rebuilt our website in preparation for level three and online ordering and takeaways.” With trading restrictions now eased, the cafe had some good days with online sales, phone orders and text orders.

“But our cafe is a community hub, not just a place for food and drink, and everyone missed the interaction with customers, the laughs, the personal touches, the atmosphere of a busy, lively, friendly cafe,” Karl says.

Karl says the road ahead is uncertain and it is clear that community support for local businesses will be vital.

“The local element is the key to the support. Pay your bills, spend your money in the shops, go out for a meal or drink if you can afford it.

“As individuals we can all do that and there is a huge tangible benefit if we do. On a wider scale I hope landlords, banks and other bigger institutions see that they also have to play their part and share in the pain, proportionally.”