There's always something going on in the central city, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; Britomart keeps bustling long after dark and starts to stir well before dawn. There are waiters and bartenders taking care of customers until the wee hours; cleaners making things nice before thousands of workers stroll in; security guards saying hi and keeping people safe. Here, we talk to a few of the people from Britomart who are absolutely not living nine-to-five lives.
CARETAKER BARTENDER JAYDA O'SHEY IS HEADING HOME FROM WORK JUST BEFORE THE SUN COMES UP
"I’ve been with Caretaker for about six months but with the company for six years. I generally do weeknights and then a weekend every so often, from around 5pm when we open until 4.30am when we close.
"I’m training for the bar, and it takes a lot to learn all the drinks we do here. Some days before I start work, I do an hour and a half of bar training, learning how to make all the cocktails. Then we do our prepping, juicing lemons and limes, and after that, I’m on the floor, showing people to tables and looking after them through the night. After we close, it’s cash-up, cleaning, prepping the bar for tomorrow. Then our cleaners come in after that. They clean a lot of the venues around Britomart, and we’re quite good friends with them. They usually arrive at 4am.
"I like working at Caretaker because it’s not too formal. It’s like inviting someone to your house, like – 'Hey, can I get you a drink? What do you like?' We mix up drinks for people based on what kind of flavours they like. Our customers are really nice. I know it sounds cheesy, but I just like chatting with people. I’ve had some really off-beat conversations. Last week there was a guy here who was over from America and had heard about this place. At the end of the night, he thanked us for making his last night here so memorable. Things like that are just really touching.
"We’re usually one of the last places to close, especially on Monday or Tuesday night. We get a lot of the teams from Miann, Mr Morris, and Café Hanoi coming in for a cheeky drink after work. They’re really lovely and will look after us with coffees, so when they come down here we’ll shout them a drink.
"I walk here from Newmarket before I start work and catch an Uber home at night. There’s a lot of hospitality venues around, so we all look after each other. It’s a tight-knit community. And this is the central city – there are always people around. Some are going to work at 5 in the morning when I’m leaving. It’s never deserted."
JUSTIN REBELLO, NIGHT MANAGER AT THE HOTEL BRITOMART, LIKES TO SHARE HIS WORK BREAKS WITH OTHER NIGHT OWLS
"I start at 11pm and I finish at 7.30 in the morning. The hotel isn’t always quieter at night. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays it’s pretty busy, with people out having a good time in the city.
"On the night shift, you get to learn so many more things. When you work at night, it’s mainly about reports, balancing revenue, making sure everything’s in good shape, making sure the lobby is in good shape and the atmosphere of the hotel is ready for the start of the day. You get into the details of how things went during the day before, you get to rectify things that went wrong the day before, and make sure things are better for the next day.
"I have a good relationship with the Britomart security team. They come and check in on us, and if we’re having a break we’ll sometimes share it with them, take a break together and have a chat. I’ve dealt with a lot of night situations with people who have maybe had a bit of alcohol. Being calm is really important, because if you’re stressed or grumpy or you treat people like they’re inferior, it doesn’t work."
LIVING CLOSE BY MAKES THOSE EARLY STARTS MUCH EASIER FOR CHAYE HENDERSON, BREAKFAST TEAM LEADER AT KINGI
"I’m a morning person. I’ve been working as a barista for about five years now, so I’m quite used to the early starts. Having my afternoons off is quite nice as well. I used to have an addiction to caffeine but during the first lockdown I didn’t drink much coffee, so I’ve inched away from it.
"I live in the city, just close to Commercial Bay, so it’s only a two-minute walk for me to get to work. We start at 6.30am so we can open around 7am. The restaurant is pretty much already set up when we get here, so it’s just about opening up the doors, making sure the couches are all clean, making it all presentable. Daily Bread opens around the same time. I’m usually the first person here and the rest of the team arrives shortly afterwards. We have around four staff on opening now, as we’ve gotten busier. The guests tend to start rolling in as soon as we open the doors, so it gets quite busy quickly!"
SECURITY GUARD JASVEER SINGH LIKES NIGHT TIME CHATS AND HELPING OUT
"I’ve been working as a security guard for the last three years, doing night shifts from 7pm to 7am. On the weekends, generally its busy but on the weekdays at night it’s pretty quiet. On Fridays and Saturdays we have a lot of people around. This is a liquor ban area so people can’t take their drinks into the street. They can drink in the lane or outside the pubs. Normally it’s really good. Only a few times we’ve had trouble but normally people are really nice when you tell them they can’t drink somewhere. Dealing with drunk people can be a bit difficult sometimes, but in general it’s pretty good.
"My favourite part of the job is just interacting with the people who come here, yeah, just having a chat with them and assisting them if they want to know where something is. Generally, people will stop and ask me how it’s going, that sort of thing."
NO NIGHT JOB IS TOO SMALL FOR BRITOMART OPERATIONS TEAM MEMBERS HIPARA NGATAI (LEFT) AND BRETT HAROLD (RIGHT), WHO HAPPILY FIX FAIRY LIGHTS, COORDINATE SECURITY AND KEEP EVERYTHING NEAT
Brett: "The operations role is all-encompassing. We look after the outdoor experience here, all the contractors – our gardener, the people who look after our lawn – the chairs and tables and beanbags, the fairy lights, all the elements you see around the place that keep Britomart unique and beautiful. Waste management, making sure everything is collected and goes in the right place. Keeping an eye on Scout and the other artworks and the fountains. A lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. I oversee the cleaning crew who are basically 24/7, and the security contract, which is also 24/7."
Hipara: "We're pretty much the caretakers of the precinct. At the moment I’m fixing the fairy lights, because the wind came through and blew everything around. Operations runs from 7am to 7pm with a crossover in the shifts, so in winter we start when it’s night and finish when it’s night."
Brett: "I’ve spent quite a few nights here. Lighting is such an important part of our vibe. The fairy lights make it such a peaceful setting. I think it helps with people’s mood. In general the vibe is really good. You just have to look at the plants, the trees, and you know someone cares about it and wants to keep it looking good. I’d say 99.95 percent of people respect that and enjoy it. I think things have changed a bit in the last month or two – everything’s gotten better. I think everyone was quite down and depressed after the last lockdown and now everything’s starting to lift up and feel better."
Hipara: "We’ve built a relationship with all our tenants and with the carpark team. It’s almost like a family of fellow employees, contractors, restaurant and shop owners. There are so many eyes on the precinct. We’ve got the cameras here in the back rooms. We’ve got the operations crew, the valet parkers, the people up above the Square in the Maritime Building. The security guard outside Tiffany & Co lets us know if he sees something going on. I was always told to take ownership of this place, like it’s my home. When you’re at your house and you see a bit of rubbish lying in the middle of the hallway, you pick it up, and that’s how we are here. People don’t just walk past a piece of rubbish."
Brett: "I can’t wait to see the cruise ships come back because I think that’s going to bring an even greater positivity to the area. It will be great to see tourists with their backpacks again."
CLEANERS ROBERTO ALVAREZ (LEFT) AND MARICEL ROMAN (RIGHT) ARE UP IN THE DARK TO KEEP EVERYTHING IMMACULATE
Maricel: "I am from the Philippines. My family lived in Christchurch for six years, and we just moved to Auckland last week. I’ve been working on on-site property maintenance for five years, for Novotel Airport. The weather is better here than Christchurch. People are friendly here in Auckland. Especially here in the company, they’re very considerate in terms of family. Since we’re new to this place, I asked them if I can phone my kids from 8 to 8.30 in the morning, just to check on them and they told me that’s okay. My kids are at a new school, and the roads are a lot more up and down here, so I just like to check on them to make sure they are okay."
Roberto: "We have a good team. Six plus one at night, so seven. We always start at 5am and work until half-past one. We are starting to be busy again now. Summer will be a nice challenge [laughs]. We take care of all the precinct, the total area, to make sure that it’s always tidy, very presentable to our guests who are coming here. We always make a plan for what we need to do for the area so everything is always in a beautiful condition. We talk to each other so nobody is complaining."
Maricel: "I love cleaning. I think cleaning is my passion! I just love it when I see the people smiling and saying, 'Oh, it’s so nice.' They appreciate the small things that we are doing. We clean all along the edges of the streets and paths, clean underneath things. Sometimes we’re painting. Lots of different things."
Roberto: "We don’t want to hear complaints from our guests. It’s fun, the environment is good. Because there are a lot of people working here, I never feel bored. Honestly, every time when I’m working, people just come up to us and say, 'Oh, thank you! You guys are making Auckland very clean.' I don’t know these people are who are saying it, they just come up to us. Yeah, it’s very nice."