Lockdown spells end for restaurant

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Last orders...Max Muldrew, left, and mother-daughter restaurateurs Sunny Wen and Angel Lin are saddened to be closing. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

Popular Timaru downtown restaurant Naruwan is closing its doors for good.

Each year, owners Sunny Wen and her daughter Angel Lin closed for a month-long holiday and travelled to Taiwan.

In March, Angel was holidaying in Taiwan and Sunny was in hospital there when New Zealand’s lockdown began.

“We had just closed for four weeks when the lockdown began and our two chefs also went back to Taiwan and could not return. They don’t have residency.”

A week before the lockdown, Sunny’s husband, Max Muldrew, travelled back from Taiwan.

But once the lockdown was lifted, Sunny and Angel could not return to reopen the restaurant.

“Max kept checking with us, when can you come back?”

On several occasions, flight bookings were made but had to be cancelled.

They arrived in Timaru only last week after spending 14 days in isolation in Hamilton.

The building owner cut their rent in half during the lockdown and they managed to gain some small government assistance but the power bill and other bills still had to be paid.

“When you add it all up, it was costing almost $8000 a month.”

They tried to hire chefs, which proved difficult because candidates did not want to travel outside their home locations.

With no chefs and the rent back up to former levels, they had no option but to close the business.

“It was a very difficult and hard decision to make,” Miss Lin said.

“We’ll try to sell the business and maybe I’ll try for a job here or back in Taiwan.”

Her mother would also try to find a job.

Taiwan has been held up as an example of how to handle Covid-19. No lockdown has been enforced in the country. From a population of 24 million people, only 498 cases have been confirmed. Among those, 475 people have recovered and only seven have died.

People have to wear masks wherever they go, maintain social distancing and regularly wash their hands.

“In Taiwan, I was tested before I got into immigration to come back,” Mr Muldrew said.

“When I got back here, there was nothing. I just walked straight through.”