Nasty streets: Fights and abuse deter bar and retail customers in Auckland CBD

Business in Auckland’s CBD is going from bad to worse, according to hotel and retail owners who are watching their clientele disappear for fear of the city’s nightlife.

Disorder, drunkenness, fights and abuse are the incidents cited by business owners in the heart of the city – such as Ding Dong Lounge owner Mat Jorgensen.

He’s owned his downtown bar for nine years and says he’s never seen such a constant mess – especially over the past year when Covid-19 emptied the city’s streets.

But Jorgensen is categorical: it is not just Covid-19 that is responsible for a “dead city” at night.

Mat Jorgenson, owner of the Ding Dong Lounge bar, has experienced large sectors of customers no longer frequenting his bar due to nighttime crimes in Auckland's CBD, he has had staff attacked and seriously hospitalized.

Jason Dorday / Stuff

Mat Jorgenson, owner of the Ding Dong Lounge bar, has experienced large sectors of customers no longer frequenting his bar due to nighttime crimes in Auckland’s CBD, he has had staff attacked and seriously hospitalized.

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“When we were back to the orange level, we were still missing sectors of our customer base. Those who came out complained about how risky it is there,” he said. Thing.

“A lot of people don’t go to town anymore, and it’s shocking to them when they do. We have middle-aged guys – tall young men – who feel intimidated walking the streets at night.

Salon staff have been assaulted in the past. Jorgensen said one incident saw an employee assaulted, left unconscious and in need of hospital treatment after leaving a late night shift. Company policy now is that no one leaves the bar alone, security escorts are required for insurance.

Nightlife crime stories are picked up across the business district by retailers including Rakesh Chauhan – who runs a supermarket on Albert St.

Nightlife crime stories are repeated throughout the business district.  (File photo)

David White / Stuff

Nightlife crime stories are repeated throughout the business district. (File photo)

Chauhan said that for the past three months he has been kicked out or confronted at least one person a day for shoplifting. Many incidents occur in the last hours.

“We are very scared to run the business,” said Chauhan, who operates the supermarket with his parents.

“There aren’t many businesses left, especially on our street, everyone is going through high stress – it’s just a different game right now.”

Several people who have raised concerns about the city’s nightlife have mentioned Fort St as a particular problem. In early March, three people were injured after a shooting in the city center street – including the brother of the prominent radio host, Jay-Jay Feeney.

The Vivace restaurant on Fort St now closes at 9 p.m., except “maybe a little later on Fridays”. Co-owner Mandy Lusk is convinced that the menacing atmosphere of the night is a factor in why there are so few people.

Just two weeks ago, three people were injured after a shooting on a downtown street, including the brother of prominent radio host Jay-Jay Feeney.  (File photo)

David White / Stuff

Just two weeks ago, three people were injured after a shooting on a downtown street, including the brother of prominent radio host Jay-Jay Feeney. (File photo)

According to Lusk, the end of the street is a magnet for disorder and misbehaving individuals.

“Normally you have a mix of office workers and tourists walking around, you just feel safer when that’s the case. Whereas for those sitting out at night right now it seems dangerous and unsavory said Lusk.

Downtown residents demanded the return of the downtown police station. Fort St station has been closed since 2013.

Viv Beck, chief executive of Heart of the City, said the trade association is pushing for support and action to keep CBD safe.

“We have called for a coordinated, cross-government approach to addressing the serious issues that have increased due to Covid-19 – including increased police resources and street presence, better management of emergency accommodation, as well than mental health and addiction services,” she said.

“These issues need to be resolved.”

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