6 Dec 2021

Smooth sailing, happy customers reported over first weekend of traffic light system

6:35 am on 6 December 2021

Many businesses are giving the new Covid-19 traffic light system a tick of approval after this weekend's first big test.

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Auckland was busy in its first weekend out of lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The vaccinated are now allowed to go to gyms, cafes and restaurants, albeit with some restrictions under the red light status.

Auckland bar manager Grady Elliott said the city came alive with customers flocking to restaurants and bars with limits of 100 seated.

"It felt like the good old days, almost back to normality. People were out, restaurants were full, people were sitting on the footpath and it was trickling down to K Rd."

The Family Bar and Club is one of six bars Elliott owns.

He said for the most part, the evenings are running smoothly.

"After last year's debacle everyone got round to it this year and they know the rules. Friday night was really busy, Saturday dropped off a little bit.

"Everybody was really good, they all turned up with their passports and we turned away two people who were non-vaxxed."

Aucklanders eat out at the Viaduct on the first day of the traffic light system

Aucklanders eat out at the Viaduct on the first day of the traffic light system Photo: RNZ/ Marika Khabazi

The South Island is in orange status, and bars and restaurants have no limits if they are using vaccine passes.

Many in Christchurch have been enjoying their newfound freedom.

"I was out both Friday and Saturday night even though I've got two kids," said Annabel Turley, chair of the Christchurch Central City Business Association.

"The city was absolutely humming. I just felt so stoked for all of those hospitality operators, just finally they're back to operating like they normally are."

She said the vaccine passes are working seamlessly.

"Everyone's checking them when people are coming in, or verifying them, so it has actually worked really well."

But other businesses in the South Island have not been so lucky.

Elliott said his two bars in Nelson and Blenheim have been much quieter than usual.

"This happened last year too, it's almost like level two and for the first couple of weeks there's that hesitancy about coming out."

Not all restaurants have re-opened for table service under the traffic light system.

Vaccine Pass Requirement Sign

Vaccine Pass Requirement Sign Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Auckland's Dominion Road is popular for its small family-owned eateries and business association manager Gary Holmes said some are biding their time.

"There's still a number, particularly the Chinese restaurants, that are still only doing takeaways and I've spoken to a couple of them this afternoon and they advise me that they are going to be opening up fully this week," he said.

"For them it's been just taking a little bit of caution, they wanted to see how the hospitality sector went before they opened up."

Retailers not operating a close-contact service can opt into using the vaccine pass - among them was PB Tech, which open its stores today only to those double dosed.

In an update on its website, the company said it wanted to prioritise the health of its vaccinated staff and customers.

A group of cyclists happily settling in at Ortolana in Britomart.

Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

Retail NZ's chief executive Greg Harford said the transition is going smoothly, with only a few cafes reporting customers angry at having to show a vaccine pass.

"We've certainly heard that there have been instances where customers have been pretty aggrieved and abusive around the fact that they've been asked to show their vaccination pass. Numbers probably aren't huge but it is an issue and it could well grow over the coming days."

The police and WorkSafe are checking the traffic light system is being followed by businesses and their customers.

Elliott said his Auckland bars have had spot checks.

"The police were out on the weekend having a look round so they were doing their bit making sure everyone was complying with things and they were doing spot checks in the Viaduct and K Rd."

Police said they were gathering information on breaches of the new Covid-19 traffic light system and no data was available yet.

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