Ika Bowl closes down due to Covid pressure

By Tumamao Harawira

Are we doing enough to support young Māori entrepreneurs in hospitality from the lasting effects of Covid-19?

Despite the efforts of one business to continue operating under government restrictions, and the recent easing of rules, one of Auckland central's favourite food stops has been left with no choice but to shut up shop.

Ika Bowl specialised in Poke, a traditional Polynesian dish made from raw fish. Ika Bowl was started by Ra Beazley and two other friends right out of high school.

"When I was 19, I took a trip over to Sydney and I saw these poke bars over there, and I was intrigued. I slowly realised that it was Australian guys doing South Pacific food, and commercialised it."

Beazley put pre-Covid earnings from Ika Bowl in excess of $800,000. It was so successful that they added extra locations in Newmarket and the Auckland Fish Market to go along with its original location on Fort St in the Auckland CBD, and just as it was about to fly, Covid hit.

Grieving process

Ika Bowl had to cut about 25 staff. Feelings of worthlessness and failure began to weigh heavy on the minds of the founder.

"I was really quite whakamā about telling people. What are they going to think? My whole identity has been built on this. Does that mean I'm not good enough because I couldn't pull it off?"

"The last two years I've been in that grieving process. This isn't fair. I've gone in and out of 'this isn't fair, this is not my fault'. What could I have done better? Could I have outworked it?"

Beazley says his losses total in excess of $500,000 and it could take years to get back on his feet. Although Government support was helpful, the hospitality sector felt left out.

"Hospitality was never given a targeted fund. It was never given targeted support, which is really upsetting because tourism got one and a whole lot of industries got one and it just got devalued."