Popular Auckland burger truck fears closure over rules

Source: Radio New Zealand

The owners of a much-loved Auckland food truck fear council regulations may force the business to shut after nearly 75 years.

Late-night burger joint, The White Lady, came under scrutiny in April 2022 when Auckland Council reduced its annual licence to six weeks after complaints from a nearby business.

The council has since granted a three-month licence until September while it investigates.

The White Lady owner Max Washer told Morning Report they had tried to work with the council to sort out any problems, but he was worried they might be micromanaged out of business.

Washer said the scrutiny facing the burger joint stemmed from a council-imposed relocation of the business due to works on the local bus network.

The relocation had led to a nearby business raising concerns about The White Lady blocking the footpath late at night and the presence of intoxicated patrons.

However, Washer said the shop did not even serve alcohol.

"We're a small family business, we've got 20 staff and we're very close to them all, we really look after our staff and we know they do a good job for us.

"We're doing our best to work with the problems but it just sort of seems like an impossible task."

Washer said neighbouring businesses' concerns had been exacerbated by the struggle he faced to recruit trained staff.

The business had picked up much of the demand from nearby food businesses that had shut up shop in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdowns, he said.

The White Lady has since taken several steps to alleviate the concerns of nearby shopowners, including putting bollards in place to deter people from blocking the footpath and relocating the shop around their site to find the best solution to the issues raised to council.

Meanwhile, staff are now urged to check for rubbish around the burger joint every half an hour.

Since the business' troubles were first publicised, Washer said the "immense" support from locals had been amazing.

"This business is all of who we are and without it our family just wouldn't sort of operate, we have a great time and we think we do an amazing job for our city and just want it to thrive and the CBD to be a better place."

Washer said the wait for information on the council's ongoing mediation of the businesses' annual license was putting the operation at risk.

"They haven't given us any clarity on that and I guess that's the worst thing is we've just got uncertainty ... any business trying to run on a one month sort of rolling lease, you just can't do it.

"We can't give certainty to our staff, we look after 20 families in the way that we see it."

Washer said he feared council regulations may force the business to shut after nearly 75 years.