Pre-lockdown Wellington On A Plate (WOAP) had signed up more than 300 venues to take part in the popular event where 256 were offering specially devised burgers. There were also 81 cocktail offerings, 71 special dining menus, 32 pop up events and 120 ticketed events of many different kinds involving 16 000 seats.

“When WOAP started in 2009, August was the slowest month of the year for hospitality in Wellington. Now it is the second busiest,” says WOAP director Sarah Meikle, “so this year it wasn’t hard at all to get establishments to take part. Hospitality venues understand the value of Wellington on a Plate.”

Then the lockdown came on Tuesday 17 August, and that changed everything.  The dining programme had finished on Sunday 15 August, but with the sudden lockdown “effectively WOAP came to a grinding halt and will operate again only when it is able.

“The lockdown was particularly challenging for the restaurant sector: operators had six hours’ notice to empty their fridges of perishables. Over Wednesday and Thursday we worked with the sector, particularly those without a food rescue partner, to help them dispose of the food” Sarah told Hospitality Business.

“We have now started working through the events programme. Clearly there are not going to be any cocktail, burger or other events until lockdown conditions permit.”

WOAP is hoping event operators will hold as many of these as possible on the scheduled date, and “we have been helped by the event organisers to get in touch with those who have booked. Some will be happy to hold and go with a rescheduled time when that’s available. Others will want refunds.”

Sarah noted that for many events there was already a wait list which will help the event organisers to fill any vacant places.

“There is a will to make as much as possible still happen, even if this means that WOAP events are still being held a week or so after the scheduled closing date of 31 August,” she said.

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