Businesses around Auckland CBD have called it a day and shut up shop due to smoke pollution and the lack of people in and around the city.
The fire that broke out at SkyCity's new international convention centre at 1pm yesterday afternoon is yet to be contained, and smoke continues to billow around the city from the construction site of the $700 million development.
More than 25 businesses have closed their inner-city stores today due to ongoing smoke pollution. Many businesses were open this morning but have since closed due to the lack of foot traffic. About two in every five shops are closed.
Signs addressing closure due to the smoke are pasted on many shop fronts located on Victoria, Hobson, Queen, Albert, Wyndham and Shortland streets.
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Farmers, MECCA, Mexicali Fresh, Esquires, Coffee Club, Countdown, Velvet Burger, Peter Alexander, Hannah's, TAB and Hype are all closed on Victoria and Queen St.
The Warehouse Group has also confirmed its Noel Leeming and Warehouse Stationery stores on both streets had closed. Auckland Council, the Auckland District Court, the Central Library and the City Art Gallery have also closed for the day.
Hannah Brown, store manager of Elliott St coffee franchise Coffix, said the small business had lost money by opening its stall today.
"I came in today hoping that the fire was out, unfortunately it wasn't, and we tried to open but haven't been successful. There isn't enough foot traffic to stay open."
She said the fire did not significantly impact the business yesterday, today was another story. "Business-wise it has definitely affected us. It's a negative day; there's no point in even opening for us. [Trade] hasn't covered expenses."
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Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said the impact of the fire had been "devastating" for businesses in the area. She said it was too soon to quantify the economic impact.
"We've got quite a mixture of things happening out there in terms of some open, some closed," Beck said.
"It's a pretty significant event. A pretty sad day in the heart of the city."
About two in every five businesses in the CBD were closed today, she said.
"It is quite significant that retailers and hospitality businesses are choosing to close, others are less able to do so. It's pretty difficult for small businesses currently [due to ongoing City Rail Link construction] but actually some have closed too."
The last time businesses in Auckland CBD had closed like this was during the electricity crisis in the late 90s, she said.
SkyCity this morning said it had never closed its Auckland gaming and entertainment complex in the company's 23-year history.
Darryn Brash, Countdown manager for the Auckland and Northland region, said the supermarket chain had closed its Victoria St store at 9.30am this morning due to the ongoing fire and "smoke activity in the CBD".
Nearly all of House of Travel's 130 staff in Shortland St, downwind of the fire, are now working from home or at other locations.
Commercial director Brent Thomas said the call was made on health and safety grounds because of smoke from the fire, and only about six or seven people were in its Auckland headquarters.
Retail analyst Chris Wilkinson said the fire was unprecedented for Auckland and would have significant commercial impact for SkyCity, Fletcher Building and other businesses in the vicinity.
SkyCity guests at the Sky Tower, restaurants, its casino and both SkyCity and SkyCity Grand hotels were evacuated yesterday hours after the fire broke out at the convention centre under-construction at 101 Hobson St.
SkyCity's Auckland site has remained closed today, and the company hopes to have it reopened to the public tomorrow afternoon. Guests staying at SkyCity's hotels have since been transferred to nearby hotels, including Cordis.
"Many businesses elected to send staff home yesterday and urged people to work from home today, so that has affected audience potential for city centre businesses. Some stores shut early yesterday and many have had to contend with the smell and soot across their stock," Wilkinson said.
The temporary closure of SkyCity's Auckland complex, considered the breadwinner for the group, would have a significant impact on the company.
Wilkinson said SkyCity was also a key "provider" for many of the businesses around Auckland CBD, and nearby traders would as a result notice the lack of trade.
"SkyCity goes beyond just the casino, hotels and visitor experiences - but includes the laneway restaurants in Federal St - which are some of the CBD's most popular establishments. It's a ghost town there today - contrasting entirely with any other day.
"What have they lost? It's hard to say, but in terms of sales across all business units this will be in the millions."
SkyCity has been contacted for comment.